Cerebral palsy or brain paralysis is the group of disorders which affect the movements, balance, and posture. This condition may be caused by congenital or acquired reasons. In certain cases, the cause may be unknown.
Possible Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Though in many cases the cause behind cerebral palsy is unknown, there are some known causes which may either increase the risk or can contribute to the occurrence of this condition. Following are some of them.
- Certain infections during pregnancy like rubella (German measles), can cause brain damage further leading to cerebral palsy.
- Insufficient supply of oxygen to the foetus which may be caused due to improper functioning of placenta.
- Premature delivery may also lead to this condition, especially when the infant is less than 3 pounds.
- Lack of oxygen or asphyxia during labour or delivery.
- Incompatibility between the Rh factor between mother and her foetus.
- Severe jaundice if not taken care of in time, may pose high risk of permanent brain damage further resulting in cerebral palsy.
- Some children may acquire cerebral palsy after birth due to brain infections such as meningitis and due to some head injury.
Symptoms of cerebral palsy can be first identified by the parents, since the child suffering from cerebral palsy shows delayed characteristics of development. The symptoms may be similar to other disorders as well, hence the physicians may need to assess on various parameters before making the final diagnosis. Some of the symptoms found in the children suffering from this condition include:
The symptoms may appear anywhere between infancy to 3 years of age. Also, the intensity of symptoms may vary depending upon the severity of injury.
Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy
Regular assessment and tests of child development are conducted so as to find the developmental issues. Various comparisons and calculations depending upon the child's medical history are made so as to rule out the possibilities of other disorder or illness. The evaluation of child's strengths, weaknesses, and abilities is done so that accurate diagnosis can be made. The other areas of assessments include the child's reflexes, motor skills, posture, and condition of mother during pregnancy
etc. All these tests and assessments help the parents to cater to the future needs of their child. Based on the degree of disability, the child may or may not need a lifelong care.
Cerebral Palsy cannot be cured, but with the help of various treatment and therapies, it can help improve the child's capabilities. In many children the improvement can be as good as a normal person. To get the best results from the treatment, it should be started as soon as it is diagnosed. The treatment totally depends upon the type of cerebral palsy. Following are some of the treatments which may help in improving this condition.
- Drugs, such as benzodiazepines, intrathecal phenol/baclofen and baclofen, to control seizures, muscle spasms and alleviate pain
- Surgery to rectify anatomical abnormalities and/or relax taut muscles
- Botox, to address contracting muscles
- Administration of hyperbaric oxygen, to improve oxygen availability to damaged brain cells
To improve everyday skills like talking, understanding, learning, and developing social and interpersonal skills, few therapies are very commonly used, and are quite effective.
- Speech therapy to control the mouth and jaw muscles and improve communication
- Physical therapy to improve gait and volitional movement
- Occupational therapy to adapt to limitations and live independently
- Medical intervention via communication aids such as computers fitted with voice synthesizers
- Standing frames to help reduce spasticity
- Neuro-cognitive therapy and patterning
Cerebral palsy is characterized by abnormal muscle tone and poor motor reflexes. Hence, the treatment options for this condition focus on improving motor development and coordination. They are all designed to address and correct varying extent bone deformities and contractures. The most important of all treatment options is medical and social intervention to educate the family on the causes of onslaught and the fatalities in the continuum of motor dysfunction.