Cerebral palsy is the most common motor and movement disability. It is a neurological disorder that affects a child’s motor skills, movements, and muscle-tone. This disability is caused by brain damage that develops while the baby is still in the uterus, during labor and delivery, or shortly after birth. Cerebral palsy affects over 500,000 people in the United States and there is currently no cure, but numerous treatments and therapies can help babies and children live quality lives that turn into successful adult lives. Not everyone has cerebral palsy in the same way, but there are similarities.
There are several types of cerebral palsy which include:
- Spastic cerebral palsy: the most common type, affecting around 80% of all people with cerebral palsy. This is when there is an abnormally increased muscle tone.
- Symptoms: delayed milestone for sitting up, crawling, and walking, abnormal movement, movement inhibition, stiff muscles, difficulties controlling muscle movement, and difficulties moving from one position to another.
- Dyskinetic cerebral palsy: also known as dystonic and athetoid is the second most common form of cerebral palsy.
- Symptoms: repetitive twisting motions, slow writing movements, unpredictable irregular movements, awkward posture, movements can range from slow to rapid and can be accompanies by pain, sometimes muscles of the face are affected causing difficulty swallowing or talking.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy: least common type of cerebral palsy. It is characterized by poor balance and coordination, tremors, and shaky movements that are difficult to control.
- Mixed cerebral palsy: characterized by two or more types of symptoms and disabilities. Spastic-dyskinetic cerebral palsy is the most common type of mixed cerebral palsy. When children have mixed cerebral palsy, they may exhibit a combination of symptoms consistent with each type of the disorder they have.
Some risk factors for developing cerebral palsy include:
- Premature birth and low birth weight
- Long, difficult labor
- Serious illness and infection
- Genetic abnormalities
- Medical malpractice
- Exposure to certain medications or substances during fetal development
Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition, but it is not degenerative which means that symptoms will not worsen over time. With proper treatment and therapeutic interventions, many children with cerebral palsy can grow up and live independent and productive lives.