Signs, Symptoms and treatment of
Cerebral Palsy (CP)

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Overview

Cerebral Palsy a.k.a. brain paralysis is an umbrella term referring to a group of disorders that affects a person’s ability to move. This congenital disease occurs due to the damage of a developing brain either during pregnancy or just after birth. It affects specific regions of the brain causing abnormal muscle tune, posture and movement. Early signs include irritability, abnormal reflexes, asymmetrical movement patterns etc. The brain injury caused is non-progressive /static in nature but affects the developing brain, which mainly affects body movements & muscle coordination. It also displays severe impact on fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning that can often be seen with poor control over facial muscles. It is important to monitor the signs for this disorder as some of them become distinctive, as the child grows older.

Types

Cerebral Palsy is classified by the type of muscle movements that result from the brain injury and what activities the patient can perform. The following classification may help understand the different types of CP:

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Approximately 80% of CP patients suffer from this syndrome. This type is characterized by high muscle tone causing stiff and jerky movements. Patient suffering from Spastic CP might display walking abnormalities, scissor shape appearance of legs (crossed always), tremors, slow movement and other developmental disabilities such as intellectual disability or similar. This can also be associated with muscle weakness or paralysis in some cases, which can be unilateral or bilateral.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

This involves the cerebellum part of brain damage hence has more to do with balance and co-ordination. Some might have a hard time with quick movements or movements that need a lot of control, like writing or drawing. In this type the muscle tone decreases causing inability to perform motor movements. Characterized by the movements that appear clumsy & jerky.

Dyskinetic Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

This disorder occurs when one looses control over the tone of muscle, causing spasms resulting in involuntary and abnormal movements. This type can be characterized by both hyper or hypotonia. This can affect all parts of the body, but in some cases, it’s localized in only one area of the body. Symptoms displayed also include: slow twitching and wriggling movements, drooling from lack of facial muscle control, difficulties with chewing, drinking, swallowing, and speech etc.

The last type is the ‘ Mixed Cerebral Palsy  ‘ which often shows the combination of symptoms of all the above mentioned.

Causes Or Risk Factors

Wide variety of cause! The majority of cerebral palsy cases are thought to happen before birth or prenatally, which typically means that the underlying cause is hard to pin down. Some causes can be:

  • Exposure to radiation and infection during fetal development
  • Hypoxia during delivery also called as Asphyxia Neonatorum
  • Genetic mutation
  • Infection to the newborn like meningitis, encephalitis etc.
  • Untreated infantile jaundice
  • Bleeding in brain i.e. cerebral hemorrhage either in fetus or in newborn
  • Premature birth where the immature brain cells get stressed causing injury to them
  • Breech presentation of fetus
  • Period of oxygen deprivation
  • Brain injury due to fall or accident or physical abuse

Signs & Symptoms

The signs & symptoms of cerebral palsy may vary from person to person and ranges from mild to severe. There are different signs & symptoms of each different type of Cerebral Palsy. Usually a child may begin to display symptoms of CP before they reach the age of 3- 4. It is important to be aware of these and mention them to your child’s physician if they occur. Common symptoms include:

  • Abnormal muscle tone (cross leg position or hypotonia)
  • Abnormal reflexes (exaggerated reflexes, stiff muscles or spasticity)
  • Abnormal movements (cross legged walking)
  • Improper coordination like being unable to hold objects
  • Impaired /Delayed speech (slurred speech)
  • Irregular posture with inability to hold the position
  • Tremors due to weakened muscles
  • Loss of balance
  • Learning difficulties due to brain injury
  • Drooling and swallowing issues
  • Neurological problems, such as seizures, intellectual disabilities, and blindness
  • Favoring one side of the body over the other while doing any movement

It is important to note that because many of the symptoms of brain tumors are non-specific, just because you may exhibit one of these symptoms doesn’t mean that you have a brain tumor. However, if your symptoms are not resolving, or are not explained by anything else and progressive, it becomes important to consult a doctor.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Since Cerebral Palsy involves permanent abnormality to the brain’s structure, it’s not curable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not treatable. Cerebral palsy is a complex disability and diagnosis is not always an easy process. Doctors may suspect cerebral palsy if a baby has slow motor development, has tight or floppy muscle tone, or displays unusual postures. Treatment for this usually involves a multidisciplinary approach from:

  • Rehabilitation specialists
  • Speech therapist
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physical therapists
  • Orthopedic specialist to solve motor problems and most importantly
  • Neurologists and Psychologists
  • Administering oral medication to cure any adjoining disorders
  • Surgical intervention can help improve the alignment of limbs thereby improving the movements

A case of cerebral palsy is usually diagnosed by physical examination of the patient by evaluating the signs & symptoms. But tests such as the MRI, blood and scans, give a clear picture of the disease to help with exact diagnosis. Specialists along with the right support and right treatment regimen can definitely improve the quality of life of the patient and help them lead their difficult lives better.

If you wish to speak to our doctor for a second opinion regarding this disorder, don’t hesitate to call us directly on 020 71529555 or fill in a request ‘here‘ for us to get in touch with you.