Let's talk about Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy, Prevention of Cerebral Palsy and Treatment:
Cerebral Palsy is a group of problems affecting body movement and posture. It is related to a brain injury or to problems with brain development and is one of the most common causes of lasting disability in children. It is estimated approximately 8,000 to 10,000 babies born in the United States each year will develop cerebral palsy.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
There are varying degrees of symptoms for people with this group of disorders. They may:
Be mild to severe
Involve one or both sides of the body
Be more pronounced in either or both arms or legs.
When cerebral palsy is severe, signs are often noted at birth or shortly after. You can really count on cerebral palsy prevention is these cases.
Common signs include:
Weak or shrill cry
Unusual body positions – very relaxed or very rigid
For milder forms of cerebral palsy, signs may not be noticed until a child is one to three years old.
Other movement and coordination problems may include:
Lack of muscle coordination
Delays in reaching motor skills milestones – sitting up alone, crawling
Favoring one side of the body
Delays/difficulty in speech development.
While the central feature of this disorder is with movement, additional neurological difficulties may affect:
or can include:
The damage to the brain that causes cerebral palsy can occur during pregnancy, delivery, the first month of life or less commonly up to three years of age. More than 75% of all cases likely result from issues that occur during pregnancy. In many cases, the exact cause is unknown, however the following factors have been identified as leading to problems with brain development:
Low birth weight
Infections/health problems in mother or baby
Lack of oxygen to the brain
Problems related to labor or delivery
Seizures after birth
Early childhood issues – toxins, lead poisoning, traumatic brain injuries, shaken body syndrome, encephalitis, meningitis
Physicians do not want to confuse cerebral palsy with temporary muscle tone problems or other disorders so diagnosis can be a lengthy process. In general a child’s development is monitored/observed over a period of time and involves many steps. CerebralPalsy.org recommends a 12 step process including observation by parents/clinicians, medical history reviews, tests, documentation of other conditions that may or may not be related to cerebral palsy, obtaining a second opinion, creating a team and care plan for the person9.
As with all developmental disabilities the goal is to maximize independence and quality of life. Up to about age eight the brain is not set and has the ability to reroute signal paths to brain regions affected by the initial trauma10. The earlier treatments start the more successful they will be. A medical care team is key to developing a care plan and treatment is a lifelong process. Treatments for cerebral palsy can include:
Therapies – physical, occupational, speech
Surgeries to reduce muscle stiffness or spasms
Devices and equipment – braces, communication devices, hearing aids, wheelchairs
Prevention of Cerebral Palsy
Vaccination against diseases – measles
Maintaining good health during pregnancy – proper diet, no smoking/drinking
Early/continuous pre-natal care
Ensuring child safety – guarding against head injuries and exposure to toxins12