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Cerebral palsy is one of the most common congenital birth disorders in the world. The term cerebral palsy can be used to describe a number of different conditions all caused by a neurological disorder. Motor skills, the ability to move and muscle tone are all affected by cerebral palsy. The disorder can lead to more serious lifelong problems, but symptoms are not progressive.

Facts About Cerebral Palsy

Approximately 500,000 people in the United States have cerebral palsy. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 10,000 babies are born with cerebral palsy every year. The rate of the disorder has not increased or decreased in the past 30 years despite medical advancements.

There are three different types of CP.

  • Spastic Cerebral Palsy caused difficulty moving and an overall stiffness in the body. This type is further broken down into three different categories depending on the severity and number of muscles affected.
  • Athetoid Cerebral Palsy is characterized by involuntary movements. Muscles affected can be in the face, arms and torso area.
  • Ataxic Cerebral Palsy affects a person’s balance and depth perception. Patients will have an unsteady gait and may shake uncontrollably.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Although it is nearly impossible to pinpoint an exact cause of CP, it can be narrowed down to complications during pregnancy. Infections and other problems during pregnancy can cause brain damage to the unborn child. In some cases, the CP may be caused by a difficult labor and delivery.

Babies who are premature and weigh under 3.3 pounds are more likely to be diagnosed with CP than those who are carried to full term. Multiples are prone to have CP due to a higher risk of being born premature and having lower birth weights.

Some children may develop CP after a severe illness or injury. The most likely causes of CP during infancy include meningitis and malnutrition. Lead poisoning, Shaken Baby Syndrome or a head injury can also lead to CP.

Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy

Doctors will closely monitor any child who is born with a risk of having CP. Babies who have no obvious risks will be tougher to diagnose. It may take several months for a doctor to discover the CP. This is usually noticed when a child fails to meet developmental milestones.

Developmental delay is not the only indicator a doctor will look for in a CP diagnosis. A child’s muscle tone and the ability to coordinate movements is also monitored. If the developmental delays persist past the age most children overcome the delays, a doctor will reevaluate a CP diagnosis. This can take a couple of years.

Prevention Of Cerebral Palsy

It is not always possible to prevent CP, but pregnant mothers can take a few steps to control some of the factors known to cause CP. Expecting mothers can do their part in promoting a healthy pregnancy and ensuring the baby is carried to full term. Healthy eating and lifestyle choices are imperative to a healthy pregnancy. Getting adequate prenatal care is essential as well. Doctors will work with the expecting mothers to prevent a number of pregnancy related conditions including diabetes and hypertension which can lead to a premature birth.

After the baby is born, parents must be vigilant and ensure the child is not exposed to lead. Use an approved car seat every time the baby is riding in a car. Parents and caregivers must never shake a child. Doctors advise parents to get a child immunized to prevent any brain damage caused by serious and preventable childhood illnesses.

Developmental Delays Associated With Cerebral Palsy

CP can cause mild to severe symptoms. Speech problems, poor vision or blindness, hearing problems and behavior problems are some of the conditions associated with CP. Medical problems like gastroesophageal reflux, tooth decay, and brittle bones are also common. Seizures and mental retardation may be evident in more severe cases of CP.

Treatment For Cerebral Palsy

There is no cure for the disorder, but therapy can help lessen the impact of CP. Children may need wheelchairs or braces with a combination of therapies to assist in daily living. Various medications and surgery are available to improve the quality of life for a child diagnosed with CP.