Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of chronic disorders that affect the ability to control movement. It appears in the first few years of life. Generally, the disorders do not worsen over time.
CP occurs due to damage to areas of the brain that direct movement. This damage interferes with the brain's ability to control movement and posture. CP may develop before, during, or after birth.
Factors that increase the risk of CP include:
Symptoms of CP vary widely. They may include difficulty with fine motor tasks like writing or using scissors difficulty maintaining balance or walking, and involuntary movements. The symptoms differ from person to person and may change over time.
CP first shows up in children aged three years or younger. Symptoms vary depending on what areas of the brain are affected. Some children may have severe disabilities. Although symptoms may change as the child grows older, the child's condition is unlikely to worsen.
Some people with CP suffer from other medical disorders as well, including:
Doctors diagnose CP by testing motor skills and reflexes, looking into medical history, and using a variety of specialized tests.
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There is no treatment to cure CP. The brain damage cannot be corrected. Therapy aims to help the child reach his or her full potential. Children with CP grow to adulthood and may be able to work and live independently.
Drugs help control muscle spasms and seizures.
Certain operations may improve the ability to sit, stand, and walk.
Braces and splints help keep limbs in correct alignment and prevent deformities. Positioning devices enable better posture. Walkers, special scooters, and wheelchairs make it easier to move around.
Programs designed to meet the child's special needs may improve learning. Some children do well attending regular schools with special services. Vocational training can help prepare young adults for jobs.
Speech, physical, and occupational therapies may improve the ability to speak, move, walk, and perform activities of daily living. Physical therapy helps strengthen muscles. Children can learn different ways to complete difficult tasks.
Professional support helps a patient and family cope with CP. Counselors help parents learn how to modify behaviors. Caring for a child with CP can be stressful. Some families find support groups helpful.
Therapeutic electrical stimulation might help.
Several of the causes of CP that have been identified through research are preventable or treatable:
United Cerebral Palsy
The Cerebral Palsy Association of BC
Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
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Last reviewed September 2013 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013