While there are many forms of cerebral palsy, hypertonic and hypotonic represent two of the most common types. 80% of those in the United States who have cerebral palsy will suffer from the hypertonic version. Both have similar origins, but differ in their symptoms. Someone with hypertonic cerebral palsy will exhibit muscle stiffness and spastic movements, whereas someone who has hypotonic cerebral palsy will have a loose, floppy musculature.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy
The word hypertonic comes from hypertonia. It refers to the rigidity, stiffness and heightened tension in the person’s muscles. While a physician usually will not make a diagnosis for months after a child’s birth, common signs that this form of cerebral palsy is affecting your child include:
- Uncomfortable movements
- Awkward movements
- Muscle resistance when your child tries to move
- Spastic movements
- Muscle spasms
- Poor balance
- Scissoring actions with the legs
- Random contractions of the muscles
Causes of Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy
With most forms of cerebral palsy, this specific version is brought on by damage done to the child’s brain, usually during the birthing process. The injury can occur before birth, during the process, or shortly thereafter. A number of different issues can cause the damage like asphyxia at birth, maternal infections, infant infections, infant stroke, mutations and medical malpractice.
Treating Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy
Though there is no cure for any kind of cerebral palsy, medications designed to help muscles relax will be very helpful for this version. Children who have hypertonic cerebral palsy often take diazepam, dantroiene and baclofenec. However, most doctors will go with physical and occupational therapy before recommending any medication. A lot of times, the child does so well with therapy that medication is never necessary.
Prognosis for Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy
Unfortunately, hypertonia can get worse over time. This can result in bed sores, infections, joint contractures, immobility, and pneumonia and bone fractures. However, in other cases, the symptoms will never get any worse and the prognosis is optimistic.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy
As we said at the beginning, those with hypotonic cerebral palsy have the exact opposite symptoms as those with the hypertonic kind. Their muscles remain loose at almost all times.
Other common symptoms are:
- A “rag-doll” appearance
- Respiratory issues
- Unusual truncal tone
- Involuntary head movements where it falls forward, to each side or drops backward
- Difficulty keeping good posture
- Difficulty standing without assistance
- Difficult walking without assistance
- Signs of autism
Causes of Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy
Usually, hypotonic cerebral palsy is brought on by damage done to the baby’s cerebellum while the child is still in the womb. Uterine ruptures, blood incompatibility between the child and mother and maternal infection can all cause the damage.
A lack of oxygen during the labor and delivery can also lead to hypotonic cerebral palsy.
Treating Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy
The vast majority of those with hypotonic cerebral palsy will be prescribed physical and occupational therapy. It is best to start your child on a program as soon as you find out they have this form of cerebral palsy. However, most doctors usually wait about 18 months before making their diagnosis.
Prognosis for Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy
As with hypertonic cerebral palsy, there is a chance the hypotonia will worsen over time. Some people will not experience this, though. In either case, it doesn’t go away, but the right treatment can make it manageable. In some instances, the effects of hypotonia will actually diminish.
The sheer number of people living with either hypertonic or hypotonic cerebral palsy means that this condition is understood well by medical practitioners. If you believe your child has the disability, be sure to bring them to a specialist ASAP so they can begin experiencing the benefits of treatment.