Cerebral Palsy: An Overview

Cerebral Palsy is not one disease. It is a collective term for a group of ailments that affect the movement, posture, and balance of the body. It is caused by damage or abnormal development in a part of the brain that controls muscular movement. The condition can appear early in life such as during infancy or childhood. Babies with this disease exhibit slow motor learning and skill acquisition.

People with this condition have struggles in controlling their muscles and coordinating their movements. Even the simplest tasks such as walking or standing up can be a major challenge for them. The condition also involves stiffness of the muscle, problems with posture, difficulty in maintain balance, struggle with common functions like speech and swallowing, and poor muscle tone.

Apart from all these, certain health problems have been linked to cerebral palsy. These include seizures, breathing difficulties, learning disabilities, mental retardation, poor dental health, digestive problems, vision impairment, hearing problems, problem controlling bladder and bowel movements, and eating difficulties, among others.

There are different kinds of cerebral palsy.

spastic or pyramidal: The first type is called spastic or pyramidal, which is characterized by increase in muscle tone. In this condition, the muscles become stiff or spastic and the movements are awkward. It is further broken down into classification according to specific body par affected. It’s called diplegia if both legs are affected, hemiplegia if it affects only one side of the body, and quadriplegia if it affects the entire body. Spastic type is the most common type of cerebral palsy. About 70 to 80 percent of cerebral palsy cases are of this type.

dyskinetic or extrapyramidal: Another type of this condition is called dyskinetic or extrapyramidal, which include all movement problems that center on coordination. The first subtype is referred to as athetoid, wherein the person has slow and writing uncontrollable movements. It usually affects the face, mouth and tongue of the person. Only 10 to 20 percent of cerebral palsy cases are of this type.

ataxic: The least common type is called ataxic, which makes balance and coordination a struggle. It also impairs a person’s ability to perceive depth that even though he/she can walk, he can only do this unsteadily. A person with ataxic cerebral palsy also experience great difficulty in tasks that require control like writing.

Despite having problems with their physical movements, people with cerebral palsy function normally in terms of mental capacity. In fact, many of them have above average intelligence, which they find difficult to express because of difficulties in communication.

With the use of appropriate interventions, people with cerebral palsy can improve their abilities. Medical and physical care as well as occupational and speech therapy can help greatly. Medications typically used for alleviating the effects of this condition and preventing complications include dopaminergic drugs, muscle relaxants, benzodiazepines, botulinum toxin type A, and anticonvulsants.

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