CEREBRAL PALSY (CP)
DESCRIPTIONCerebral palsy is a group of muscular and nervous-system disorders that usually begins in infancy and remains throughout life, causing varying degrees of disability. Cerebral palsy is not inherited. The central nervous system and muscular system are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Home care when possible.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Psychotherapy or counseling to help the family acknowledge the condition and help the child achieve maximum potential.
Surgery to correct muscular-system deformities (sometimes).
Time in an extended-care facility for children with severe CP (sometimes).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSEarly sucking difficulty with the breast or bottle.
Lack of normal muscle tone (early); slow development (walking, talking).
Unusual body postures; stiffness and muscle spasms (later).
Purposeless body movements; poor coordination or balance.
Crossed eyes; deafness; convulsions.
Various degrees of mental retardation (sometimes). Many are not mentally retarded at all!
Number and severity of the following symptoms vary widely among children with CP:
CAUSESBirth injury, including prolonged oxygen deprivation.
Use of drugs during pregnancy that damage the fetus.
Infections, such as German measles, in the mother during pregnancy.
Rh incompatibility or bile blockage in the newborn.
Meningitis or encephalitis during infancy or childhood.
Defects in the brain and spinal column. The reason for these defects is often unknown. Known reasons include:
Prematurity; excess alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEInstructions for the mother:
Before becoming pregnant, obtain immunizations against German measles if you have never had the disease or an immunization.
Arrange for good medical care during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Eat a normal, well-balanced diet during pregnancy.
Don't drink alcohol or use any drug, including non-prescription drugs, during pregnancy without consulting your doctor.
Don't smoke during pregnancy. It leads to low birth-weight babies with complications.
MEDICAL TESTSYour own observation of symptoms; medical history and physical exam by a doctor (sometimes a neurologist). A parent's intuition is often important. Obtain a second opinion, if necessary. Laboratory blood studies; EEG (See Glossary); psychological tests.
Hepatitis, if the child is institutionalized.
Pressure sores, if the child is confined to bed.
Contractures, if the child's limbs are not properly exercised.
Children vary widely in the severity of this condition. A child with CP may have high intelligence despite major muscular disability. Many children can be cared for in a loving home. Those with less-severe impairment can lead near-normal, productive lives. Children with severe impairments may require special care.
Because early diagnosis is important, be sure your child has regular medical checkups. Failure to diagnose CP may deny the child opportunities for special programs that maximize growth and development.
Maintain an optimistic outlook for yourself and your child. High expectations can sometimes be met.
Seek help and advice from other parents whose children have cerebral palsy.
Investigate resources in your community, including educational and physical-therapy programs, to obtain treatment that maximizes your child's capabilities.
MEDICATIONAnti-convulsants to control seizures.
Muscle relaxants to relieve spasms.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your doctor may prescribe:
Encourage your child to do as much as possible.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes, if able. The child may require special education classes.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
You are concerned about your child's development or suspect CP.