Childhood cerebral palsy is a disorder of the brain and nervous system that can cause physical disabilities in infants, children, and adolescents. It is the leading cause of physical disability in childhood and can range from mild to severe. Find out more about what sets it apart from other related conditions, how it affects development, and how it may be managed with treatments.
What is Childhood Cerebral Palsy?
Childhood cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and persist throughout life. It is a non-progressive disorder, meaning the brain damage does not get worse over time, but its effect on the body can change over time. CP affects muscle control, movement, and coordination. Common symptoms include abnormal posture, stiffness of muscles and joints, uncontrolled movements, slow or abnormal reflexes, difficulty walking and speaking.
Causes of Childhood Cerebral Palsy.
Cerebral palsy is caused by a brain injury that takes place before, during or shortly after birth. The exact cause of the brain damage is often unknown, but it can be related to various factors both before and during birth, such as prematurity, genetic disorders, complications during labor and delivery, infections in the mother during pregnancy, lack of oxygen to the baby's brain at birth, and head injuries. Some cases may even be caused by medical negligence occurring around childbirth. In other cases, no specific cause for the disorder can be identified.
Symptoms of Childhood Cerebral Palsy.
Symptoms of childhood cerebral palsy vary, but can include weak muscles or difficulty controlling specific muscles; abnormal reflex actions; problems with coordination and balance; poor posture; unsteady gait; difficulties with fine motor skills, self-care and feeding; vision or hearing impairments; speech difficulties. The symptom severity may also differ among children, ranging from mild to severe.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Diagnosis may involve a medical history review, physical exam, and/or a variety of tests. Treatment for children with cerebral palsy focuses on maintaining a child’s best level of functioning, as well as helping to reduce any related disabilities and preventing further complications. There is no single treatment or cure for childhood cerebral palsy but treatment options can include medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, assistive technology and adaptive equipment.
Support Resources for Families Affected by Cerebral Palsy
Families affected by cerebral palsy can benefit from a variety of support resources. These include support groups, online forums and communities, educational information and resources as well as local organisations.