Do you know what cerebral palsy is? Are you one of the millions of people who suffer from it? Cerebral palsy, also known as CP, is a group of disorders that affect body movement. These disorders are caused by damage to the developing brain and nervous system during birth or just after. Cerebral palsy can range from mild to severe. It affects people in different ways, but it typically causes difficulty with muscle control and coordination.
Your child needs medical care and treatment to help overcome their disability. The goal of treatment is to help them develop normal movement. The sum of lifetime care expenses is roughly more than $1 million.
What is a cerebral palsy syndrome?
The term “cerebral palsy” can be confusing because it includes several different disabilities that are not caused by damage done to the brain or spinal cord—including other types of CP. But there is another type of neurological problem called “cerebral palsy syndrome.” The cerebral palsy syndrome involves damage to the area right behind the eyes (brain and skull base). Problems in this area of the brain affect things like a child’s ability to control the head muscles, arms, and legs. These symptoms are prevalent in about 25 percent of children with CP.
CP affects about 764,000 children and adults each year in the United States. For this reason, CP is a major public health problem. More than 10,000 children are born every year with some form of CP. Although there are several types of CP, they all result in motor problems that make movement difficult for an individual or group. The signs of CP are noticed right after birth—but usually, the disorder is not diagnosed until after a child’s first birthday.
How does CP affect the body?
The brain and spinal cord send messages to muscles in the body through nerves. When some type of injury causes damage to the brain or spinal cord, these messages are “broken.” It is then impossible for those muscles to work properly, and there is no way for them to move normally. It leads to a disorder or disability called cerebral palsy.
Different parts of the brain control the body parts affected by CP. They include the upper limbs, lower limbs, and trunk (the whole body except for the arms and legs). Any of these parts can be affected, which makes it hard to predict how a child will react to CP.
What are the symptoms of CP?
The symptoms and severity of CP are different for each child. However, they all have something in common. Most of the symptoms are caused by problems with muscle control and coordination. Some of the symptoms include:
- Muscle stiffness
- Joint contractures (the inability to move a joint through its full range of motion
- Problems with posture (the way the body holds itself)
- Limp muscles that tire easily and may not grow as fast as normal muscles do in healthy children or adults.
What causes CP?
Many different types of injuries and birth defects can cause CP. When a child is born, medical care will likely take care of the problem right away. But if medical care fails to work, CP usually occurs within the first year. Cerebral palsy is the result of damage to brain development after the first year of life. Most of the time, it happens during the first three years. Here are some of the causes of CP:
Injury to the brain before, during, or after birth. It can happen when the child is being delivered, or it can happen after birth because of trauma to the head. The injury can be immediate or delayed (occurring many days later). The injury may not even be noticed for some time when doctors finally find out what is causing your child’s CP.
Problems with the brain or spinal cord. It can happen because of infections, tumors, strokes, and even some medical conditions.
Many forms of CP have no known cause—but experts are working hard to find out more about these types.
How is cerebral palsy syndrome treated?
Some people may wonder whether they should take their child for a medical examination as soon as possible. It does not mean that the doctor will find anything wrong. However, if the doctor finds something early on, it may help prevent CP from getting worse in the future.
The earlier precautions are taken, the better. But remember that there is no surefire way to prevent a child from getting CP.
The treatment for cerebral palsy syndrome depends on which part of the brain is injured and how severely it is damaged. Physicians may recommend medicines, surgery, physical therapy, or other interventions to treat your child and help them learn to deal with their disability.
Doctors use treatments like medicines and surgery to help the child with their disability. Each child and each case is different, so treatment will depend on the type of cerebral palsy and severity of symptoms. Some of the treatment ideas include
Physical therapy and rehab to help your child’s muscles get stronger. A physical therapist helps your child learn to work on motor skills like sitting up, crawling, walking, and standing. A therapy program is designed to fit in with your child’s needs and capabilities. And most insurance companies cover these costs because they are for medical reasons that help improve the quality of life for an individual.
Medications may be used to treat other symptoms besides those involving muscle control and coordination.
Surgery is rarely used to treat children with CP.
How can my family help me deal with my child’s CP?
Most of the time, parents will not even know their child has CP until after it happens. Even though your child may have CP, don’t stop taking care of them. You are a big part of the solution—and you need to take part in their treatment and help solve their problems. It is normal for you to feel angry, hurt or sad after finding out about your child having CP. But putting your feelings aside is the best thing for your child. Here are some ways you can help:
Avoid blaming yourself when something bad happens to your child. If you think you caused the problem, don’t tell anyone that CP is “your fault.” You did not cause the disability through anything that happened during pregnancy or birth.
Don’t limit what activities your child does because of their disability. Instead, take advantage of what they can do and encourage them to overcome their problems. Most kids with CP can learn to talk and do simple things like feeding themselves.
Know about the child’s disabilities. Don’t ignore a problem just because you don’t know about it. If you think that your child’s development is not progressing the way it should be, talk to their doctor right away.
Don’t do things on your own if you have a question or problem. Ask for help from professionals who know how to treat these types of disabilities—especially if they are severe, like CP.
CP can be difficult for a family to deal with. The child will have to learn how to deal with being different, but the entire family and friends will also feel as if they are in a different situation than what they are used to. It is important that everyone learns about CP and not be afraid of it because it will reduce the stigma and allow their child to live a normal life. This article provides information on cerebral palsy syndrome and treatment options.