The condition called cerebral palsy, which is classified as a neuromuscular disorder, is a disability resulting from damage to the brain occurring prior to or during birth. This defectiveness is characterized by muscle weakness, with the leg muscles being those most commonly involved. Another common characteristic of cerebral palsy is hypertonicity, or stiffness, of the involved muscles, with frequent spasmodic movements.
It is not clear what exactly causes cerebral palsy. The damage to the brain is most often caused by an occurrence that reduces the amount of oxygen going to the brain. Pre-birth damage to the brain, for example, can be triggered by any one of these events: a pulling away of the placenta from the wall of the uterus, cutting off oxygen supply from the blood of the mother to that of her unborn baby; prolonged labor; a compressing of the umbilical cord (the oxygen supply line to the baby); or some viral diseases which attacked during the first few weeks of pregnancy.
In most cases of cerebral palsy, the damage to the brain impairs body movement. In some cases of the disease, mental function is likewise affected.
There are several types of cerebral palsy, the three main ones being spastic, athetoid, and ataxic. Each of these three types of cerebral palsy has its own set of symptoms. The spastic type, for example, is characterized by stiff and difficult movements of certain body parts, particularly the arms and legs.
The athetoid type of cerebral palsy produces uncontrolled or involuntary movements. A poor sense of balance and poor depth perception are typical of the ataxic type. In some instances, the three cerebral palsy types overlap. In such a case, symptoms of two or even all three types occur in the victim.
Sometimes the infant with cerebral palsy is handicapped from birth with vomiting, difficulty in nursing, and irritability. Manifestations of the condition may be noticed first when the child is about six months old. An indication that a child may have cerebral palsy is a delay in his/her ability to sit up, crawl, and stand.
Symptoms of cerebral palsy do not grow worse, inasmuch as the disease is not progressive. When properly treated, the symptoms may even become less severe. Many children with cerebral palsy live relatively normal lives. A number of rehabilitative measures can be done for a child with this condition. These include muscle reeducation, speech training, the wearing of braces, and special tutoring in school.
1. “Cerebral Palsy – Signs and Symptoms,” on Neurology Channel (online) – http://www.neurologychannel.com/cerebralpalsy/symptoms.shtml
2. “Types of Cerebral Palsy,” on Rasansky Law Firm (online) – http://www.texasinjuryattorney.com/birth-injury/types/cerebral-palsy
3. “Cerebral Palsy Symptoms: Recognizing Early Symptoms,” by Jason Lassater, on BAfree.net – http://self-help.bafree.net/cerebral-palsy-symptoms-recognizing-early-symptoms