"Cerebral" refers to the cerebrum which is part of the brain, and its covering, the cerebral cortex. This area of the brain controls the movement of muscles. "Palsy" means weakness or paralysis. So the name "Cerebral Palsy" tells us there has been a brain injury affecting the brain and bodily movement.
Cerebral palsy (CP) may be caused by problems that occur before or during birth, or it may be caused by head trauma or infection in the first three years of life.
In the womb, if a fetus doesn't get adequate nutrients, or its brain does not develop correctly, cerebral palsy may be the result.
A stroke can occur if blood flow to the baby is interrupted by clots in the placenta, or if weak blood vessels allow blood leakage into the brain.
If the infant is born prematurely, this can cause CP.
If the mother acquires an infectious disease during pregnancy, the baby can get cerebral palsy. Some possible illnesses are German measles (rubella), chickenpox (varicella), cytomegalovirus (causing flu-like symptoms), toxoplasmosis (a parasite in the soil and in infected cats' feces) and syphilis (a venereal disease).
A child may contract cerebral palsy if they suffer a serious head injury, or have an infection affecting the brain like viral encephalitis or meningitis. Viral encephalitis causes inflammation in the brain. Meningitis causes inflammation in the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord.
Infants with cerebral palsy lack healthy muscle tone (hypotonia). They may seem floppy. Or they may have too much muscle tone (hypertonia) and may seem rigid. Some children may start out with hypotonia which progresses to hypertonia after the age of three months or so.
A toddler with cerebral palsy may favour one side of their body, or walk with a limp. Some may have little motor control of their limbs (ataxia).
Some have difficulties speaking and eating or may drool, due to problems with their mouth and tongue. The child may experience vision or hearing disturbances.
In severe cases, seizures or mental retardation may occur.
Telltale signs of CP may not appear right away. But symptoms can appear, can change, and can worsen at any time.