Cerebral palsy is a common disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. In most cases, the condition develops before or during birth, but it can also occur within five years after birth.
Children diagnosed with this condition usually experience difficulty with posture, gait, muscle tone and coordination of movement. These difficulties are present as a result of a damage or injury that occurs to the brain when it is still developing.
What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?
Symptoms of this disorder can be mild or severe and it also varies from person to person. Some of these symptoms include:
- Difficulty with speech
- Delayed motor skill development
- Stiff muscles with normal or exaggerated reflexes
- Lack of coordination and balance
- Problems with movement on one side of the body
- Involuntary movements or tremors
- Difficulty with sucking or eating
What causes cerebral palsy?
The conditions occur as a result of damage to the brain. Factors that can lead to brain damage include:
- Traumatic head injuries sustained during birth or the first few years after birth
- Maternal infections that affect the developing fetus
- Maternal exposure to drugs and alcohol, and microorganisms in contaminated foods
- Lack of oxygen to the brain before, during or after birth
- Bleeding in the brain
- Mutations in the gene that leads to abnormal brain development
What are the risk factors for developing cerebral palsy?
There are a number of factors associated with an increased risk of the condition. These factors include:
- Premature birth
- Multiple birth
- Low birth weight
- Blood type incompatibility between mother and child
- Abnormal delivery, for example breech birth
- Complicated labor or delivery
- Illnesses in a newborn like bacterial meningitis and severe, untreated jaundice
Certain health conditions or infections during pregnancy, including herpes, syphilis, exposure to toxins and thyroid problems, may also increase a baby’s risk.