Cerebral Palsy

Despite the last 60 years of medical researches, Cerebral Palsy (CP) is claiming thousands of lives all over the world. Specifically in the developed countries, deaths from cerebral palsy are roughly around 2-2.5 per 1000 live births. Even contrivances such as electro-fetal monitoring have not provided great break-throughs.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a combination of two words – the former refers to the brain and the later refers to inability to move. Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a broad term comprising a group of non-contagious, non-progressive neurological disorders, which result in physical immobility of human beings, particularly the posture and movement.

This disorder becomes manifest when the motor control centers of the young budding brain are damaged. It mostly crops up during pregnancy (in around 75 percent cases), or at the time of childbirth (in around 5 percent cases) or even after the child is born (in around 15 percent cases), of course, before the child becomes three years old.

The Causes

The roots of congenital CP are yet to be clarified. Nevertheless, it is clear that children born under certain circumstances are highly prone to this disorder. The circumstances being:

Existence of hemorrhage in the brain
Premature birth
Newborns needing ventilator for more than 4 weeks
Undersized infants who do not cry within first 5 minutes of delivery
Malformations in internal system like kidneys, heart or spine and
Incidents of seizures

There are some cases of CP occurring from injuries in head during infancy or early childhood. Prolonged infections and undernourishment too are known to lead to the disorder after birth.

Classification

Cerebral palsy can be segregated into four major categories based on the area of brain damaged. These classifications also project the different disabilities in movement. The four major classes of Cerebral Palsy are:

Spastic or Athetoid
Dyskinetic
Ataxic
Mixed

Signs And Symptoms

Majority of the cerebral palsy patients reflect symptoms like abnormal muscle tone, reflexes, posture or motor coordination and development. Cerebral palsy is also associated with deformities in the bones and joints, and contractures (that is permanently fixed, tight joints and muscles).

The secondary symptoms of cerebral palsy are: spasms, seizures, and other involuntary movements, eating problems, sensory impairments, hearing or vision impairments, disorders in speech or communication, behavioral disorders, disability to learn as well as mental retardation.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Explicit Diagnosis of cerebral palsy is not easy in all the cases, as it involves an inexact time of waiting. A doctor can consider the aberrations in the muscles and muscle tones, movements and reflexes.

Usually tests and scans like Computed Tomography or CT and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) are used to diagnose cerebral palsy. However, these tests do not fully establish whether a child is suffering from cerebral palsy or not.

Treatment

The treatment of cerebral palsy involves different types of therapies, which allow the patients afflicted with disorder to lead a better life. In some cases, the children are able to lead normal adult lives if their disabilities are effectively handled.

The treatment of cerebral palsy may include drugs to control seizures, alleviate pain and relax muscle spasms. Occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy and surgery are used to check the anatomical abnormalities or release tight muscles. Communication aids include computers with attached voice synthesizers. Wheelchairs, rolling walkers, braces and other orthotic devices too are used but there is still no specific cure for cerebral palsy.

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