Frequently Asked Questions About Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a collection of disorders caused by damage to the brain around the time of birth or early life of a child.

It is also called brain paralysis or CP.

How can you tell if a baby has cerebral palsy?

The types of cerebral palsy include:

  1. Spastic cerebral palsy 
  • Affects the cerebral cortex of the brain
  • Causes stiff muscles (spasticity) and is the most common form of cerebral palsy.
  • It can affect different parts of the body:
  • Diplegic- the legs more than the arms
  • Hemiplegic- one side of the body
  • Quadriplegic- the entire body
  1. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy
  • Affects the basal ganglia part of the brain
  • Causes uncontrollable movements (dyskinesia) 
  1. Ataxic cerebral palsy
  •  Caused due to damage of the cerebellum in the brain
  • Causes poor balance and coordination(ataxia)
  1. Mixed cerebral palsy
  • It is associated with damage of multiple areas of the brain

Signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy

  • Low muscle tone (baby feels ‘floppy’ when picked up).
  • Unable to elevate their heads when resting on their tummies or when in a held sitting spot.
  • Muscle spasms or feeling unbendable.
  • Poor muscle control, responses and positioning.
  • Delayed growth and development.
  • Breastfeeding and feeding complications.
  • Desires to use one side of the body.

Brain abnormality associated with cerebral palsy could also lead to other neurological problems such as:

  • Difficulty of seeing and hearing
  • Abnormal touch and pain perceptions
  • Mental health conditions
  • Disabilities such as spinal deformities and emotional and behavioral changes.
  • Seizures, sudden uncontrollable disturbances in the brain, they can cause changes in your behavior, movements or feelings, and in levels of consciousness.
  • Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence) 
  • Oral diseases such as redness or swelling (gingivitis), misalignment of teeth, breathing through the mouth and difficulties in biting and chewing.

Can you be diagnosed with cerebral palsy later in life?

CP is a type of brain damage that occurs before a child reaches the age of five. Adults cannot develop these condition. Although the health of a child improves as the child grows to an adult there are some health issues that affect them as individuals at points of life.

Some of the challenges faced by adults with cerebral palsy are:

  • Premature aging. This is evidenced by early signs of getting old before reaching the old age in reality. People with cerebral palsy use up five times the amount of energy used by able-bodied people during their daily normal activities.

Some of the symptoms of premature aging include: increased pain, increased risks of falls, dental health problems, long-term health problems due to medications and operations and difficulty while walking and stiff muscles.

  • Walking or swallowing disorders.

Walking disorder would be as a result of bending of the legs or maybe the flexibility of the person.

This might lead to the need of mobility equipments such as crutches or wheelchairs depending on the walking disorder.

Swallowing disorder could be as a result of oral diseases such as misalignment of teeth, damage of nervous system or head or neck.

Some of the symptoms of walking and swallowing disorders are food leaking from the mouth or getting stack, weight loss and poor nutrition and dehydration, embarrassment during eating situations or walking situations etc.

  • Post-impairment syndrome.

This is a main condition that adults with cerebral palsy live with. It is a collection of health problems that cause a great deal of uneasiness, agony and trouble with flexibility. It occurs due to damage in the bones, muscles and other tissues in the body.

The common signs and conditions associated with post-impairment syndrome include:

_Weakness when nerves bring abnormal signals to the muscles making movement challenging.

_Arthritis and pain_ the deformities people with CP have can cause pains that are repetitive which           may be from arthritis, scoliosis or from imbalanced muscles.

_Depression_ though it is not physical, adults suffering from CP may suffer from depression due to the strain they go through such as poor mobility, painful muscles and eating problems.

  • Mental health problems.

People with CP get stressed because they have a fear of being tested by others and most of them tend not to participate in social occasions. Therefore with time this leads to the development of mental health problems. Some of the signs of mental health problems for a person suffering from CP include:

Not sleeping or sleeping too much

Eating too much or lack of appetite.

Less desires to do activities that one used to enjoy before

Rapid heart beat

Avoiding participating in social situations

Being overly worried about small things

What Causes cerebral palsy

  • Low birth weight

Children with less than 2500grams have the risk of have a great chance of getting cerebral palsy

  • Premature birth

Children born before the 37th week of pregnancy have a great chance of getting cerebral palsy. Though intensive care has improved for babies born before their expected time but some get medical problems that may lead to the risk of acquiring CP.

  • Multiple births

People born as twins, triplets and other multiple births have a high risk of getting CP. The main reason for this is because kids born in such a situation are commonly born with maybe less weight or even they are born prematurely which have risks of getting CP.

  • Infections during pregnancy

Cerebral palsy testing in pregnancy

There is no test or statute that confirms cerebral palsy, hence diagnosing takes time. If the case is severe the child may be diagnosed soon after birth, but majority are done during the first two years. For slighter signs the kid is not diagnosed till the brain matures and they can be diagnosed between the age of 3 to 5 years of age. Parents are the first to notice that their child has missed one of developmental milestones. Doctors test reactions, muscle tone, posture, coordination and other aspects all of which can develop over months and even years. Clinical physicians may refer to specialists or test MRIs and ultrasounds or CT scans to get a view of the brain. Diagnosis is important since it tests the health of the child, preparation of early treatment, to remove the fear of not knowing, to be prepared financially for the cost of raising a child with cerebral palsy. 

Tips on how to prevent cerebral palsy during pregnancy

Common beliefs that oxygen reaching the fetus during labor and delivery contributes to less cases of cerebral palsy. In many cases the cause of cerebral palsy is unknown but there are many ways to prevent which includes:

  1. Visit the doctor regularly for checkups.
  2. Avoid smoking and drinking
  3. Regular doses of folic acid reduce the risk of prematurity of the unborn baby. Maintain a prenatal vitamin regimen.
  4. Maintain one’s physical health to prevent succumbing to infections.
  5. Always have the timing of labor to avoid the risks of infections by visiting the health center.
  6. Eat right and do the right exercises conducted by a physician, this raises the chances of delivering a healthy baby.
  7. Stay away from second hand smoke and avoid inhaling the smell of harmful chemicals and pesticides.
  8. Be tested with blood incompatibility. If there is blood incompatibility with the father or the fetus, a child is likely to get cerebral palsy.
  9. Prevention from maternal infections. All women should be immunized from maternal rubella which reduces the risk of getting cerebral palsy. Maternal herpes also may affect the infant, which in some cases may affect the brain causing brain injury related to CP.
  10. Reduction of pregnant women to exposure of virus and any other infections.
  11. Recognize and treat bacterial infections of reproductive and other urinary tracts as a matter of prevention.
  12. Avoid exposure to x-rays, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and medications. 
  13. Control maternal health problems such as diabetes, anemia and hypertension
  14. Ensure optimal evaluation on women who had ever had miscarriages and premature infants.
  15. Early recognition of preterm labor which can be prevented.