Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder that can affect posture and many aspects of daily life. Cerebral palsy (CP) is caused by damage or abnormal development in parts of the brain that control movement. These events can happen before, during, or shortly after birth or in the first few years of life, when the brain is still developing. In many cases the exact cause is unknown.
According to the South African Society of Physiotherapy, cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood – as many as eight children per hundred are affected in South Africa.
CP is a permanent but non-progressive condition that does not get worse as a child grows into adulthood. Except in cases where a baby is born with serious health problems, it is not considered a life-threatening disability, and most infants who are diagnosed with CP live normal life spans.
Causes of CP that occur before birth include: damage to the brain`s white matter, abnormal brain development, bleeding in the brain and lack of oxygen in the brain.
Although there have been no general studies of life expectancy in people with cerebral palsy, most children affected live between 30-70 years, depending on the severity of their condition.
Cerebral Palsy Types & Common Symptoms
The four main types of cerebral palsy include: Spastic, Athetoid, Ataxic and Mixed. The type is classified based on mobility limitations and the body parts affected. Below are some of the most common signs and symptoms related to each type.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy:
- Awkward reflexes
- Stiffness in one part of the body
- Contractures (permanently tightened muscles or joints)
- Abnormal gait
Athetoid Cerebral Palsy:
- Stiff or rigid body
- Floppiness in the limbs
- Problems with posture
- Issues feeding
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy:
- Difficulty speaking
- Problems with depth perception
- Shakiness and tremors
- Spreading feet apart when walking
Mixed Cerebral Palsy:
- Exaggerated, jerky movements
- Abnormal reflexes
- Poor posture
- Tremors or shakiness
- Issues with coordination
Individuals with CP require long-term care with a team of therapists for ongoing physical therapy, occupational- and speech therapy, and developmental therapy among a list of others. Mobility aids and assistive devices can also be used to help increase independence for those living with cerebral palsy. There is currently no cure for CP, but the condition is manageable with proper treatment and continuous loving care.
Research on stem cell therapy is developing at a rapid pace. The hope is that in the future, some type of stem cell therapy may help children with CP by replacing injured nerve cells that can take over the function of the damaged areas of the brain. As more information becomes available from carefully conducted scientific studies, this therapy may prove useful for children with cerebral palsy.
Also see this comprehensive overview of symptoms, causes , diagnosis and treatment.
Cerebral Palsy Awareness
National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month is celebrated every year in March as an awareness campaign to express support for the ones suffering from Cerebral Palsy. World Cerebral Palsy Day is on the 6th of October, and is represented by the green awareness ribbon. World Cerebral Palsy Day is a movement of people with cerebral palsy and their families, and the organisations that support them, in more over 65 countries. Their vision is to ensure that children and adults with cerebral palsy (CP) have the same rights, access and opportunities as anyone else in society. Learn more about Wold CP Day.
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