WHAT IS CEREBRAL PALSY?
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Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of motor disorders caused by brain damage at early stages of development. According to recent statistics, 0,2% to 0,3% of all newborns suffer from this condition.
Cerebral Palsy is non-progressive (does not change with time), manifests itself early during the life of infants and is usually accompanied by other diseases like epilepsy or autism.
More than 14 million people suffer from Cerebral Palsy worldwide and on October 6th (Cerebral Palsy day) the international community is encouraged to create awareness and celebrate the achievements of people struggling with Cerebral Palsy. In this article we hope to contribute to this goal by informing the public about what Cerebral Palsy is and the type of challenges patients face at all moments to live a normal life.
Although Cerebral Palsy has a variety of different manifestations there is a list of symptoms present in most cases.
- Problems with motion, posture and muscular tone mostly associated to spasticity. Infants and adults with this symptom will have some of their muscles in a constant state of contraction/ rigid, which makes fine movements difficult.
- Speech impediments (~ 80%)
- Visual problems (~ 75% of cases)
- Altered sensations: One of the most common examples is the loss of sensitivity of the hands (~ 50% of cases)
- Cognitive impairments/ intellectual disability (~ 50% of cases)
- Chronic pain (~ 25% of cases)
- Behavioral problems
- Difficulty swallowing
Causes and risk factors
There is an incorrect assumption some sources still make about Cerebral Palsy. In the past, cases of Cerebral Palsy were mainly attributed to hypoxia at birth, however, over time it became apparent that in fact the lack of oxygen is only responsible of a minor percentage of all cases.
Today the medical community considers the following as main causes and risk factors of Cerebral Palsy:
- Genetic and environmental factors causing poor or incorrect migration of brain cells during critical stages of development.
- Poor brain cell maturation.
- Brain cell death due to blood vessel rupture.
- Intrauterine infections.
- Multiple gestations.
- Umbilical or placental thrombosis.
- Abnormal inflammatory responses.
Unfortunately, the actual cause for individual cases is frequently not apparent.
Classification of Cerebral Palsy
- Quadriplegic: All 4 limbs and the trunk are affected, patients experience few voluntary movements, there is frequent optic atrophy and severe intellectual impairment in all cases.
- Hemiplegic: Only one side of the body is paralyzed, voluntary movements are more common but the hands are specially affected, sensory anomalies and seizures are common.
- Diplegic: The lower limbs are mostly affected, there is presence of brain injury due to isquemia, is frequently seen in underweight newborns and many individuals develop repetitive eye movements and cross-eyed.
At the moment, no treatment is capable of repairing the damaged brain tissue. However,
People with Cerebral Palsy can achieve the same quality of life than those without this condition if they receive sufficient support. Understanding the nature of Cerebral Palsy is important in the process of helping patients gain access to better treatment and preventing future cases. This includes:
- Physical therapy: A long-term treatment based on exercises and activities to improve muscular strength, balance and movement.
- Orthotic devices: A series of devices (casts, splints, braces, etc) to be placed on the affected areas to improve movement.
- Technology: This category include all other technologies or devices meant to assist people with Cerebral Palsy.
- Drugs: The right medication can help relax stiff muscles and help recuperate some function. Epileptic medication can also be used in appropriate cases.
- Surgery: Surgeons can help patients by changing the length of muscles, adjusting the position of limbs and straightening the spine.
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- Cerebral Palsy. (2019, September 23). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/cerebral-palsy-11-things/index.html
- Oskoui, M., Coutinho, F., Dykeman, J., Jetté, N., & Pringsheim, T. (2013). An update on the prevalence of cerebral palsy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 55(6), 509-519. doi:10.1111/dmcn.12080
- About us. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://worldcpday.org/about-us/
- Odding, E., Roebroeck, M. E., & Stam, H. J. (2006). The epidemiology of cerebral palsy: Incidence, impairments and risk factors. Disability and Rehabilitation, 28(4), 183-191. doi:10.1080/09638280500158422
- Hemiplegia. (2011, June 20). Retrieved from https://chasa.org/medical/hemiplegia/
- MacLennan, A., Thompson, S., & Gecz, J. (2015). Cerebral palsy: causes, pathways, and the role of genetic variants. American Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynecology, 213(6), 779-788. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2015.05.034
- Causes of Cerebral Palsy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cerebralpalsy.org/about-cerebral-palsy/cause
- N, S. (2019). Cerebral palsy-definition, classification, etiology and early diagnosis. - PubMed - NCBI. Retrieved 2 October 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16272660
- What are common treatments for cerebral palsy? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/cerebral-palsy/conditioninfo/treatments
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