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Cerebral Palsy Guide

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Cerebral Palsy: Some Causes and Symptoms

By Jody Smith HERWriter
 
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"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.

Add a Comment2 Comments

Jody Smith HERWriter

Thanks for writing, Rosa.

I also have a friend whose baby was born within two weeks of one of my sons. From infancy on, their lives and growth were completely different. My friend would watch my son with fascination, as she tried to imagine what a healthy infancy and toddlerhood would be like.

Just those few minutes of inadequate oxygen completely changed her and her son's lives, and the lives of everyone in the family.

February 4, 2010 - 5:46pm
Rosa Cabrera RN

Thanks for the article Jody.

I have a co-worker who has a son that is my son's age but has CP. Unfortunately, he had no oxygen for about 4 minutes from the time they realized she had low amniotic fluid and a cord prolapse to the time they were able to get the baby safely out via c-section. He is doing much better but still cannot eat and has to be fed through a tube-- he is a hefty boy though, much bigger than my 21lb one year old.

February 4, 2010 - 1:38pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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