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Cerebral palsy – Symptoms, and Causes

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect movement and muscle tone or posture. It is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.Signs and symptoms appear during infancy or preschool. Cerebral palsy generally causes impaired mobility associated with exaggerated reflexes, limb and trunk weakness or spasticity, unusual posture, involuntary movements, unsteady gait, or some combination thereof.

People with cerebral palsy may have difficulty swallowing and commonly have eye muscle imbalances where the eyes do not focus on the same object. They may also have reduced range of motion in various joints of their body due to muscle stiffness.

The cause of cerebral palsy and its effect on function varies widely. Some people with cerebral palsy can walk; others need help. Some people have mental disabilities, but others don't. Epilepsy, blindness, or deafness may also be present. Cerebral palsy is a lifelong disease. There is no cure, but treatment can help improve function.

What is mixed cerebral palsy?

Mixed cerebral palsy occurs when a child shows symptoms of more than one type of cerebral palsy. Children diagnosed with mixed types of cerebral palsy have suffered damage to the motor control centers in several parts of the brain.

The symptoms of mixed cerebral palsy vary according to the localization of movement disorders and the resulting combination of types of cerebral palsy. These movement problems can occur in the legs (diplegia), one half of the body (hemiplegia), or all four limbs (quadriplegia).

Some cases of brain injuries leading to mixed cerebral palsy are preventable and are caused by medical negligence. Your family may be entitled to legal action if you believe your child's injuries could have been prevented.

Types of cerebral palsy

Doctors classify CP according to the main type of movement disorder. Depending on which areas of the brain are affected, one or more of the following movement disorders may occur:

  • Stiff muscles (spasticity)

  • Uncontrollable movements (dyskinesia)

  • Poor balance and coordination (ataxia)

There are four main types of CP:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy: The most common type of CP is spastic CP. Spastic CP affects about 80% of people with CP. People with spastic CP have increased muscle tone. This means that their muscles are stiff and as a result, their movements can be clumsy.

  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy: People with dyskinetic CP have problems controlling the movement of their hands, arms, feet, and legs, making it difficult to sit and walk. Sometimes the face and tongue are affected, and the person has difficulty sucking, swallowing, and speaking.

  • Ataxic cerebral palsy: People with ataxic CP have problems with balance and coordination. They can be unstable when walking. They may have difficulty with fast movements or movements that require a lot of control, such as typing.

  • Mixed cerebral palsy: Some people have symptoms of more than one type of CP. The most common type of mixed CP is spastic-dyskinetic CP.

Cerebral palsy symptoms

The signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy can vary greatly from person to person. Cerebral palsy can affect the whole body, or it can be primarily limited to one or two limbs or one side of the body. Generally, signs and symptoms include problems with movement and coordination, speech and eating, development, and other problems.

1. Movement and coordination:

  • Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity), the most common movement disorder

  • Changes in muscle tone, such as excessive stiffness or excessive laxity

  • Stiff muscles with normal reflexes (rigidity)

  • Lack of balance and muscle coordination (ataxia)

  • Shaking or jerky involuntary movements

  • Slow, twisting movements

  • Favoring one side of the body, such as reaching with only one hand or dragging a leg when crawling

  • Difficulty walking, such as tiptoeing, crouching, scissor-like walking with crossed knees, wide walking, or asymmetrical walking

  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as buttoning clothes or picking up dishes

2. Speech and Eating:

  • Delay in speech development

  • Difficulty speaking

  • Difficulty sucking, chewing, or eating

  • Excessive drooling or trouble swallowing

3. Development:

  • Delay in reaching motor skill milestones such as sitting or crawling

  • Learning difficulties

  • Intellectual disability

  • Delayed growth, resulting in a smaller than expected size

4. Other problems:

Brain damage can contribute to other neurological problems, such as:

  • Seizures (epilepsy)

  • Difficulty hearing

  • Vision problems and abnormal eye movements

  • Abnormal sensations of touch or pain

  • Bladder and bowel problems, including constipation and urinary incontinence

  • Mental health conditions such as emotional disorders and behavioral problems

The brain disorder causing cerebral palsy does not change over time, so symptoms usually do not worsen with age. However, as the child gets older, some symptoms may become more or less obvious. And muscle shortening and muscle stiffness can get worse if not treated aggressively.

Causes of cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain of a fetus or child. It can be difficult to determine the exact cause of brain damage, but there are several factors that can cause a child to develop this condition.

Common causes of cerebral palsy include:

  • Bacterial and viral infections such as meningitis

  • Bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage)

  • Head injury sustained during childbirth or during the first few years of infancy

  • Lack of oxygen to the brain (asphyxia) before, during, or after birth

  • Prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol

  • Prenatal exposure to raw/undercooked meat or fish

  • If the brain is damaged during the first 5 years of life, it may not develop properly.

Early signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy affects children in many physical and neurological ways. The severity of the condition and the extent of associated movement problems vary depending on the type of brain damage a child suffers. On the other hand, there are a number of symptoms and signs of cerebral palsy.

Many cases of cerebral palsy are not diagnosed until toddlerhood because signs and symptoms can be difficult to identify. Watching for certain signs of cerebral palsy can help your child get an early diagnosis and proper treatment.

Cerebral palsy in babies

Baby positioning Some of the symptoms of cerebral palsy in newborns caused by brain damage during birth may go unnoticed in infants. It may not be noticeable, but there may be an abnormality in brain development.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy in infants may include:

  • Abnormal muscle tone

  • Crossed or stiff legs when lifting

  • Delay in sitting, crawling, rolling over, and walking

  • Difficulty grasping objects or clapping hands

  • Excessive drooling

  • Inability to lift own head

  • Arched back and/or neck when lifting

  • Stiffness of joints and/or muscles (spasticity)

When to see a doctor

It is important to get a quick diagnosis of your child's movement disorder or developmental delay. See your child's doctor if you are concerned about episodes of loss of awareness of your surroundings or unusual body movements or muscle tone, impaired coordination, difficulty swallowing, eye muscle imbalances, or other developmental problems.

Tips for Parents

  • Learn as much as you can about autism spectrum disorder

  • Provide consistent structure and routine

  • Connect with other parents of children with autism

  • In case of specific problems, seek professional help

  • Make time for yourself and other family members

Having a child with autism affects the whole family. It can be stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. It is important to pay attention to the physical and emotional health of the whole family. Geniuslane Child Development Centre provides information, resources, and support to individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their families.

For any query related to autism, you can call on +91-7669988833 / +91-0522-4082221

Also, you can WhatsApp on +91-9598157092

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