Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain usually occurring during fetal development; before, during, or shortly after birth; or during infancy. These disorders are not caused by problems in the muscles or nerves. Instead, faulty development or damage to motor areas in the brain disrupts the brain's ability to adequately control movement and posture.
ˇ§Cerebralˇ¨ refers to the brain and ˇ§palsyˇ¨ to muscle weakness/poor control. Cerebral palsy itself is not progressive (i.e. brain damage does not get worse). However, secondary conditions, such as muscle spasticity, can develop that may get better over time, get worse, or remain the same. Cerebral palsy is not communicable. It is not a disease and should not be referred to as such. Although cerebral palsy is not ˇ§curableˇ¨ in the accepted sense, training and therapy can help improve function.
Cerebral palsy is characterized by an inability to fully control motor function, particularly muscle control and coordination. Depending on which areas of the brain have been damaged, one or more of the following may occur: muscle tightness or spasticity; involuntary movement; disturbance in gait or mobility, difficulty in swallowing and problems with speech. In addition, the following may occur: abnormal sensation and perception; impairment of sight hearing or speech; seizures; and/or mental retardation. Other problems that may arise are difficulties in feeding, bladder and bowel control, problems with breathing because of postural difficulties, skin disorders because of pressure of sores and learning disabilities.
Cerebral Palsy (CP) is an umbrella-like term used to describe a group of chronic disorders that impair control of movement Cerebral palsy appears during the first few years of life. Symptoms and severity vary widely.
Early signs of CP usually appear before 18 months of age. Parents are often the first to suspect that their infant is not developing motor skills normally. Infants with CP are frequently slow to reach developmental milestones, such as learning to roll over, sit, crawl, smile, or walk. This is sometimes call developmental delay.
Some affected children have abnormal muscle tone. Decreased muscle tone is called hypotonia. A baby may seem flaccid and relaxed, even floppy. Increased muscle tone is called hypertonia, and the baby may seem stiff or rigid. In some cases, the baby has an early period of hypotonia that progresses to hypertonia after the first 2 to 3 months of life. Affected children may also have unusual posture or favor one side of their body.
Parents who are concerned about their baby's development for any reason should contact their physician, who can help distinguish normal variation in development from a developmental disorder.