Cerebral palsy is one of the most common physical disabilities in the United States, with roughly 500,000 people suffering from the disorder. It is also a very complicated disorder with a number of different types and symptoms. Despite how common it is no parent wants their child to be afflicted by it. Whether your child already has it or you are simply concerned about its potential harm, cerebral palsy is something every parent should know about.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
No one knows for sure how exactly an infant develops cerebral palsy. What we do know is that either during birth or shortly thereafter, a brain malformation or some kind of injury causes cerebral palsy.
Many doctors and scientists believe an infant inflicted with cerebral palsy is probably the result of an infection that hinders the brain’s growth or development. This would mean it happens well before birth.
Other scientists, though, point to a perceived correlation between injuries shortly after birth and the development of cerebral palsy. This would mean that the disability actually begins with some form of medical malpractice in many cases, as the injury would have to occur during birth or right after.
Some examples of malpractice-related injuries that may lead to brain damage include:
- Oxygen deprivation
- Being dropped
- Being pulled out of the birth canal with excessive force
- Damage from tools like forceps or vacuum extractors
- Labor that lasts more than 18 hours (especially, in the case of multiple babies with the same pregnancy)
Signs and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
As we have stated, cerebral palsy has a number of symptoms related to it, which is why it is impossible to make sweeping generalizations. That being said, cerebral palsy does have some symptoms that are common to anyone who has the disorder:
- Slow, abnormal, even writhing movements beyond the child’s control
- Lack of muscular control
- Spastic movements
- Atypical muscle development that is either stiff or floppy
Another common sign is when children miss certain developmental milestones or otherwise display intellectual disabilities.
Symptoms and Signs According to the CDC
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also have some warning signs and symptoms they use to characterize this disorder.
Like we mentioned, a lack of control over one’s muscles is a sign that someone may have cerebral palsy. As a result, tasks that are simple for most of us can be extremely difficult for someone suffering from the disease. Things most of us take for granted like walking, sitting down, grasping objects, or tying shoes may prove to be almost impossible for someone with this handicap.
Those with cerebral palsy may also have abnormal reflexes. A symmetrical or an asymmetrical tonic reflex, for example, is common. Spinal gallant reflex and palmer grasp reflex are too. Although an infant may display other reflexes, most of these will disappear by the time they are five months old.
People with cerebral palsy tend to suffer from issues that limit their coordination and control. When they become stressed or overwhelmed, these issues may become more pronounced too.
Due to the spastic movement of their facial muscles, many people with the disorder also have trouble talking, eating, swallowing, closing their mouth, and even breathing.
Treating Cerebral Palsy
At the moment, there is no cure for cerebral palsy. When a doctor diagnoses a child with it, the next step is introducing the parents to various ways they can accommodate their son or daughter. Things like walkers, wheelchairs, and braces will most likely be necessary. Education plans that take their disability into consideration and in-home care of some kind will be necessary too.
Cerebral palsy is a debilitating disability, but not something that needs to ruin a person’s life. As advancements in medicine and technology continue, those who suffer from cerebral palsy have a bright outlook.