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Cerebral palsy in Children

Cerebral palsy (CP) in children is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills (the ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful way). CP usually is caused by brain damage that happens before or during a baby's birth, or during the first 3 to 5 years of a child's life.

This brain damage also can lead to other health issues, including vision, hearing, and speech problems; and learning disabilities. There is no cure for CP, but treatment, therapy, special equipment, and, in some cases, surgery can help kids who have CP.

There are primarily three types of CP:

spastic cerebral palsy — causes stiffness and movement difficulties

dyskinetic (athetoid) cerebral palsy — leads to involuntary and uncontrolled movements

ataxic cerebral palsy — causes a problem with balance and depth perception

Because cerebral palsy affects muscle control and coordination, even simple movements — like standing still — are difficult. Other functions that also involve motor skills and muscles — such as breathing, bladder and bowel control, eating, and talking — also may be affected when a child has CP. Cerebral palsy does not get worse over time.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

The exact causes of CP aren't always known. But many cases are the result of problems during pregnancy when a fetus' brain is either damaged or doesn't develop normally. This can be due to infections, maternal health problems, a genetic disorder, or something else that interferes with normal brain development. Rarely, problems during labor and delivery can cause CP. Premature babies especially under 28 weeks gestation — have a higher chance of having CP than babies that are carried to term. So do other low-birthweight babies and multiple births, such as twins and triplets.

What Problems Does CP Cause?

Kids with CP have varying degrees of physical disability. Some have only mild impairment, while others are severely affected. This depends on the extent of the damage to the brain. For example, brain damagecerebral_palsy can be very limited, affecting only the part of the brain that controls walking, or it can be much more extensive, affecting muscle control of the entire body.

The brain damage that causes CP also can affect other brain functions and lead to additional medical issues, such as:

visual impairment or blindness

Hearing loss

Food aspiration (the sucking of food or fluid into the lungs)

Gastroesophageal reflux (splitting up)

Speech problems

Drooling

Sleep disorders

Osteoprosis (weak, brittle bones)

Behavior problems

Epilepsy, speech and communication problems, and intellectual disabilities are more common among kids with CP. Many have problems that can require ongoing therapy and assistive devices such as braces or wheelchairs.

How Is Cerebral Palsy Treated?

Currently, there's no cure for cerebral palsy. But a variety of resources and therapies can provide help and immensely improve the quality of life for kids with CP.

Children with CP commonly need Physiotherapy, Speech therapy, Occupational therapy and sometime Behavioural therapy to improve their quality of life. Occasionally the children need orthopaedic surgeries to help increase tendon lengths, scoliosis etc

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About Author

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Dr Aman PS Sohal

Dr Aman PS Sohal is a U.K Board certified Consultant Pediatric Neurologist with over 11 years of experience in Pediatrics which includes more than six years of experience as a Consultant in Pediatric Neurology.

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