Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that causes problems with body movement and muscle coordination throughout a child’s life. While most children are born with this condition, signs may not appear until months or years later. If you notice your child having trouble sitting, crawling or walking, he or she may have cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy affects the central nervous system and may occur as a result of several different causes. In most cases, the condition develops during the pregnancy, but may also be a result of complications with delivery. Some of the risk factors for cerebral palsy include:
- Premature birth
- Brain infections
- Genetic disorders
- Improper brain development
- Lack of oxygen to the brain
There are four main types of cerebral palsy, which can be diagnosed once the child is about two years old. These types include:
- Spastic – causes increased muscle tone and tightness throughout the legs, arms and back (most common type)
- Athetoid – causes low muscle tone and looseness in the entire body
- Ataxic – affects balance and depth perception, leading to overall poor coordination
- Mixed – includes symptoms of spastic and athetoid, causing stiffness and involuntary movements
Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy, there are several treatments available to help relieve the symptoms of this condition and improve your child’s physical capabilities. Many children with this condition are able to go on and enjoy functional, independent adult lives. Treatment for cerebral palsy may include physical, occupational and speech therapy, and medications to help control seizures, relax muscle spasms and relieve pain. Surgery may be required to correct structural abnormalities or release tight muscles.
Other treatment options for cerebral palsy include:
- Communication devices
- Botox (to loosen spastic muscles)
Through continued treatment, most children are able to improve their motor skills and communicate to lead a life that is as close to normal as possible.