In the United States alone, an estimated 500,000 people have some form of cerebral palsy or another.
However, despite this large number and the large sums of money that have been put toward trying to treat it, the disorder is still without a cure. Nonetheless, whether you’re an expecting parent or already have a child, it’s a good idea to understand a bit more about cerebral palsy.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
One of the most frustrating things about this disorder is that no one truly knows how exactly it develops, even when we can pinpoint where exactly it afflicts the body. What we are aware for sure, though, is that the damage that causes cerebral palsy either happens during birth or shortly after that. Doctors can confirm this because a baby will show no signs of it when in the womb, but display the affliction after delivery (sometimes, it’s not caught until weeks or months later; in those cases, though, there is no other explanation for them).
The damage that triggers the problem is most likely a brain malformation or something similar. It could be caused by an infection that goes onto hinder the child’s growth or development. In that case, though, the actual cause—the infection—begins well before birth, even if you can’t necessarily see it.
At the same time, there are countless clear examples of cerebral palsy being caused well after birth. Sadly, in many cases, it’s caused by malpractice. Either way, the list of complications that could be at the root of cerebral palsy include:
- Trauma to the head (perhaps from being dropped)
- Damage caused by birthing tools like vacuum extractors and forceps
- Oxygen deprivation
- Getting pried from the birth canal by someone using excessive force
- Labor that goes on for over 18 hours (this is especially the case when the mother is having twins, triplets, etc.)
What Are the Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy claims a number of symptoms, but they can all be traced back to the brain and how it controls motor functions. Lack of muscular control is a big one. Some children may not be able to use their limbs as they’d like. At the same time, they may have trouble keeping their bodies from moving against their will. Spastic movements are common, as are slow, writhing ones in abnormal motions.
A lot of people with cerebral palsy will grow up to develop muscles that are either stiff or floppy.
Understandably, another very common occurrence in those with cerebral palsy is simply that they miss important developmental milestones.
Treating Cerebral Palsy
As we mentioned above, there is no cure for cerebral palsy at the moment. Fortunately, many have found a comfortable life with the disorder thank to modern advancements.
Everything from walkers to leg braces to wheelchairs can be used to ensure someone with cerebral palsy remains mobile. These days, there is also no shortage of professionals who have dedicated their lives to helping children with cerebral palsy learn to function both inside and outside of the home. Whole schools have also been built specifically so that people with this disorder get a solid education and, in some cases, learn skills they can take into the workforce.
While there is no doubt that cerebral palsy is a severely debilitating malady, the right news is that there are so many resources for those who need help, as well as their families.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
There are believe to be 8 types of cerebral palsy, each with it’s own unique debilitating challenges and levels of immobilizing severity.
There area a variety of factors that can effect the average life expectancy of a person suffering from cerebral palsy, but they generally come down to the level of severity of several of the impairing conditions.