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6 Of The Most Common Questions Regarding Cerebral Palsy

What is Cerebral Palsy?

“Cerebral” refers to the brain, while “Palsy” refers to a physical disorder, such as a lack of muscle control. The term Cerebral Palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination but don’t worsen over time.

What causes Cerebral Palsy?

Like every organ in the human body, the brain needs a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood to survive. If the brain fails to get enough oxygen, it begins to die. Sometimes, during the birthing process. an unborn baby will not get enough oxygen. This is called fetal distress. If an unborn baby with fetal distress is not immediately delivered, the lack of oxygen can result in permanent brain damage. This brain damage can result in Cerebral Palsy. 

What are the signs and symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?

The signs and symptoms of Cerebral Palsy range from barely perceptible to obvious, and include the following:

Poor head control, Difficulty feeding and sucking, Delays in motor development, Lying in awkward positions, Easily or frequently startled, Delay in crawling, walking, pushing up on all fours, Favoring of one hand over the other, Abnormal crawling, Floppy or stiff movements (overdeveloped or underdeveloped muscles), Ataxia (loss of coordination and balance), Athetosis (involuntary slow, writhing movements), Spastic paralysis (abnormal stiffness and contraction of muscles), Motor impairment (difficulty with writing and other coordinated tasks), Involuntary movements, Slow overall development
Difficulty with speech, hearing, or vision, Difficulty with perception or sensation, Inability to control bladder, Inability to control bowels, Breathing difficulties, Seizures, Behavioral and/or attention deficit disorders, Impaired sense of touch or pain, Swallowing problems, Limited range of motion, Progressive joint contractures and Peg teeth.

What treatments are available for Cerebral Palsy?

Although Cerebral Palsy cannot be cured, treatment will often improve your child’s capabilities. Treatment for Cerebral Palsy may include physical and occupational therapy; speech therapy; drugs to control seizures; drugs to relax muscle spasms; drugs to alleviate pain; surgery to correct anatomical abnormalities or release tight muscles; braces and other orthotic devices; wheelchairs and rolling walkers; and communication aids, such as computers with attached voice synthesizers.

How is Cerebral Palsy diagnosed?

To determine whether your baby has cerebral palsy, your baby’s doctor will test your baby’s motor skills and reflexes. The doctor will also look for signs and symptoms commonly associated with cerebral palsy (for example, delayed development, abnormal muscle tone, unusual posture). Your baby’s doctor will also look for unusually early development of hand preference, i.e., the tendency to use either the right or left hand more often.In diagnosing your child’s condition, your baby’s doctor will also attempt to rule out other disorders that can also cause muscle coordination and movement problems. By definition, cerebral palsy does not get worse over time. Your baby’s doctor will be looking to see whether your baby’s condition worsens over time, as this would indicate that some other condition — and not cerebral palsy — is causing your baby’s muscle coordination and movement problems.In diagnosing cerebral palsy, your baby’s doctor may also want to perform imaging studies such as CT scans, MRI scans, and ultrasonography to get a picture of your baby’s brain.Finally, to determine whether your baby has cerebral palsy, your baby’s doctor may want to test for other conditions that are typically present with cerebral palsy, such as seizure disorders, mental impairment, and vision or hearing problems.

Why does Cerebral Palsy happen?

During the birthing process, it is essential that your child’s brain continue to receive oxygen from blood delivered to the baby via the umbilical cord. If the umbilical cord becomes wrapped or pinched, the amount of oxygen to your child’s brain may be decreased or cut off. If this occurs, portions of the brain will die and cerebral palsy may result.

There are several methods that your Pittsburgh doctors and nurses can use during the birth process to make sure that your baby is receiving the appropriate amount of oxygen. If there is evidence of fetal distress, it is necessary for your doctors and nurses to take immediate action to restore oxygen flow. If they are unable to do so very quickly, it is necessary to perform an emergency C-section (cesarean section surgery) to remove your child from the dangerous situation. There are other medical emergencies necessitating C-section, such as when the placenta breaks away from the uterus before delivery (placenta abruptio) or the umbilical cord comes out before the baby is delivered (umbilical cord prolapse).The longer your doctors and nurses wait to take action in response to fetal distress, the more likely your child will have a brain injury resulting in cerebral palsy. 

What is Spastic Cerebral Palsy?

Spastic Cerebral Palsy is the most common form of Cerebral Palsy. Spastic Cerebral Palsy results in muscles that are rigid and function in a jerky motion. If your child has Spastic Cerebral Palsy, they will have trouble moving around. There are three types of Spastic Cerebral Palsy: Spastic Diplegia, Spastic Hemiplegia, and Spastic Quadriplegia .

What is Spastic Quadriplegia?

Spastic Quadriplegia is the most severe form of Spastic Cerebral Palsy. If your child has Spastic Quadriplegia, they are also likely to have mental retardation. With Spastic Quadriplegia, both arms, both legs, and the body are affected. Children with Spastic Quadriplegia have difficulty walking and talking, and they often experience seizures.

What is Spastic Hemiplegia?

Spastic Hemiplegia is a form of Spastic Cerebral Palsy in which only one side of your child’s body is rigid and stiff. If your child has Spastic Hemiplegia, their arms or hands might be more affected than their legs. On the affected side, their arm and leg may not develop normally. They may also require leg braces.

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