Because cerebral palsy results from brain damage or injury, co-existing conditions often accompany the neurological disorder, providing further obstacles regarding self-care, independent living and symptom management. Risk factors may be reduced with proper medical attention and practical treatment plans as some conditions result from unattended disorder symptoms. Medical professionals and caregivers frequently work closely in conjunction with one another to manage and minimize the risk of developing coexisting conditions in cases of cerebral palsy patients.
Common Coexisting Conditions Found in Cerebral Palsy Patients
- Approximately 30 to 50 percent of cerebral palsy patients suffer from intellectual impairment but afflicted individuals with spastic quadriplegia show the highest prevalence of impaired cognitive and mental ability.
- Up to 50 percent of cerebral palsy patients experienced one or more seizures over the course of their lifetime and afflicted individuals suffering from epilepsy concurrently experience significantly increased the risk of intellectual disability.
- Moderate to severe instances of cerebral palsy frequently displays delayed growth and development with varying manifestation depending on the growth stage. Infants and young children typically display below average weight gain and abnormal height relative to children without mental and physical impairments. Adolescents showcase a combination of inhibited sexual development and unusual short stature. Furthermore, muscles and limbs may display disrupted growth, which is especially evident in patients with spastic hemiplegia as limbs on the unaffected side of the body outgrow those on the affected side.
- Spinal deformities, including kyphosis, lordosis, and scoliosis, commonly occur in patients with cerebral palsy, causing chronic pain and inhibiting the pursuit of normal physical movements, such as standing, walking, and sitting.
- Osteoporosis result from cartilage breakdown in the joints and bone enlargement; consequently, the pressure and joint misalignment caused via muscle malformations and spinal deformities may lead to the development of osteoarthritis-related conditions.
- Cerebral palsy patients commonly experience vision impairment as a result of their congenital brain injury. Furthermore, some children show signs of difficulty organizing and processing visual information, while others exhibit blurred or otherwise defective fields of vision in one or both eyes.
- Children with cerebral palsy show a higher risk of developing hearing impairment issues or disorders in conjunction with their neurological condition. Partial or complete hearing loss may be the result of insufficient access to oxygen for the developing brain or severe or untreated jaundice.
While every cerebral palsy patient presents with differing and varying degrees of complications, the following are relatively common comorbid conditions facing individuals with cerebral palsy, including:
- Speech and language disorders inhibit the patient’s ability to communicate effectively either through cognitive disabilities or poor control of muscles related to speech. Communication-related impediments are a common source of frustration, as many cerebral palsy patients possess average to above average intelligence.
- Muscular malformations and spasticity may cause excessive drooling for patients with limited to no control over mouth, throat and tongue muscles.
- Poor muscle control in digestive and intestinal tracts may lead to incontinence as the bladder fails to operate efficiently.
- The neurological disorder’s holistic effect on the brain is not entirely understood by the medical, government, familial and research communities, resulting in several inexplicable symptoms including abnormal perceptions or sensations. Afflicted individuals can experience difficulties feeling mere touch sensation or undue pain in mild interactions.
- The brain damage associated with the neurological disorder may impact language and intellectual functioning, inhibiting the patient’s ability to process, organize and analyze auditory and spatial cues or information.
- Adults living with cerebral palsy have an increased risk of developing lung and heart diseases, typically due to inhalation of food particles into the lungs, relative to adults with no mental or physical impairments.
- Though inactivity and obesity show a high prevalence in children without mental and physical disabilities, those with cerebral palsy have a significantly increased risk for both given their limitations in participating in physical activities in addition to the tremendous amount of energy involved in self-care.
Given the rate and high probability of cerebral palsy patients later developing comorbid and overlapping conditions, having a highly communicative patient treatment program is essential to the long-term management of these commonly found coexisting conditions in child and adults with cerebral palsy.