Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects muscle control and movement. It is usually caused by an injury to the brain before, during or after birth. Children with cerebral palsy have difficulties in controlling muscles and movements as they grow and develop.
In the UK, cerebral palsy affects about one in every 400 children (2 – 2.5 per 1,000 live births). Cerebral palsy can affect people from all social backgrounds and ethnic groups.
Does cerebral palsy change?
Cerebral palsy itself is not progressive; the injury to the brain does not change. However, the effects may change over time for better or worse.
Is there a cure for cerebral palsy?
There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but physiotherapy and other therapies can often help people with cerebral palsy become more independent. No two people will be affected by their cerebral palsy in the same way, and it is important to ensure treatments and therapies are tailored to a child’s individual needs.
What causes cerebral palsy?
The main causes of cerebral palsy include:
• Infection in the early part of pregnancy
• Lack of oxygen to the brain
• Abnormal brain development
• A genetic link (though this is quite rare)
What can increase the chances of cerebral palsy?
The following factors can increase the likelihood of cerebral palsy:
• Difficult or premature birth
• Twins or multiple birth
• Mother’s age being below 20 or over 40
• Father under 20 years
• First child or fifth (or more) child
• Baby of low birth weight (less than 2.5 pounds)
• Premature birth (less than 37 weeks)
A combination of the above (such as low birth weight and being a twin) can further increase the probability of cerebral palsy.
Types of cerebral palsy
There are three main types of cerebral palsy. Many people with cerebral palsy will have a mixture of these types.
• Spastic cerebral palsy
• Dyskinetic cerebral palsy
• Ataxic cerebral palsy
No two people with cerebral palsy are affected in the same way. Some have cerebral palsy so mildly that it’s barely noticeable. Others may be profoundly affected and require help with many or all aspects of daily life.
Cerebral palsy: associated conditions
Some people with cerebral palsy may have associated conditions; while others may not. These can include:
• Learning difficulty (although children with cerebral palsy cover the same range of intelligence as other children)
• Epilepsy (up to a third of children with cerebral palsy)
• Hearing impairment (only 8% of children)
• Problems with sleep
• Communication difficulties
• Feeding difficulties
• Problems with toileting
• Spatial awareness and perception
• Behaviour issues (one in four children with cerebral palsy)
• Periventricular leukomalacia
People with the condition may find themselves marginalised in society and may have psychological problems due to frustrations caused by their disability