Cerebral palsy (CP) is a collection of neurological disorders that adversely impact an individual’s balance, posture, and ability to move. Cerebral palsy is the prevailing motor disability in children. It falls under the broader categorization of static encephalopathy, which refers to chronic, nonprogressive brain disorders in children. Cerebral palsy can be caused when the brain develops abnormally, or when the developing brain is damaged. In many cases, cerebral palsy is a birth injury caused by brain damage resulting from errors during labor and delivery.
Cerebral Palsy Explained
According to the National Institutes of Health, “The term cerebral palsy refers to a group of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement, muscle coordination, and balance.” Essentially, cerebral palsy is a medical condition that affects the nerves responsible for controlling muscle function. Consider the words used to describe this condition: “cerebral” means “of the brain” and “palsy” refers to disorders that cause movement impairments. If these essential nerves are impaired, a child can experience weakness, abnormal muscle tone, and difficulties moving their muscles.
How do I know if my Child has Cerebral Palsy?
If your child suffers from cerebral palsy, you may recognize the primary symptoms. All children with cerebral palsy have difficulty with posture or movement of their muscles. However, there are a broad range of other symptoms that may accompany motor problems, such as seizures, intellectual disabilities, and vision impairments. The symptoms of cerebral palsy are highly variable. Depending on the area of the brain affected and the specific type of cerebral palsy, a child may have:
- Muscle tone changes (increased or decreased)
- Muscle stiffness and spasticity or rigidity
- Muscle weakness
- Balance and coordination problems
- Uncontrollable movements
- Developmental delays as it relates to movement (crawling, sitting, standing, etc.)
- Favoring one side of the body
- Problems with gait or walking
- Difficulty eating, sucking, or swallowing
- Excessive drooling
- Speech impairments
Types of Cerebral Palsy
There are four primary types of cerebral palsy, each of which is explained in more detail below. The type of cerebral palsy that a child experiences will depend on the specific region of the brain impacted.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Spastic cerebral palsy occurs in approximately 80 percent of all cerebral palsy sufferers, making it the most prevalent type. Spastic CP is characterized by muscle stiffness and increased muscle tone. There are several subtypes of spastic cerebral palsy, including:
- Spastic diplegia: also known as diparesis, this type primarily affects the legs, which can cause problems walking.
- Spastic hemiplegia: also known as hemiparesis, this type is confined to one side of the body
- Spastic quadriplegia: also referred to as quadriparesis, this very severe type affects the face, the chest, abdomen, arms, and legs. Children with spastic quadriparesis typical experience the most symptoms and associated conditions.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
Dyskinetic cerebral palsy leads to difficulties with controlling movement. It may affect arms, legs, hands, and/or feet. Dyskinetic CP can be marked by muscle stiffness or weakness that changes. The movements involved may be fast or slow but they are always uncontrollable. The term used to describe uncontrollable movements is dyskinesia, hence the term “dyskinetic.”
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxia means problems with balance and coordination, which are the symptoms associated with ataxic cerebral palsy. A child with ataxic cerebral palsy may have trouble reaching for or holding things or writing. They may also have difficulty walking or quickly changing direction.
Mixed Cerebral Palsy
Mixed cerebral palsy is a catch-all category used to describe individuals who experience symptoms associated with multiple types of cerebral palsy. For example, if a child has some spasticity and some uncontrollable movements, they may be diagnosed with spastic-dyskinetic cerebral palsy. This is the leading subtype of mixed cerebral palsy.
Related Conditions to Cerebral Palsy
Many children with cerebral palsy experience other conditions and symptoms, the most common of which include:
- Spinal conditions like scoliosis
- Joint problems
- Intellectual disabilities
- Seizures (epilepsy)
- Vision, hearing, or speech issues
- Developmental delays
- Problems with sensation
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy can take one of two trajectories: it is either caused by abnormal brain development or by damage inflicted on the developing brain. The underlying brain damage that results in cerebral palsy can occur at any time during the period of brain development. In other words, it can occur during pregnancy while the fetus is still in utero, during labor or delivery, while the child is still an infant, or at any other stage before the child reaches five years of age. Between 85 and 90 percent of cerebral palsy cases are congenital, meaning the condition develops before or during birth. The remaining percentage of cases occur within 28 days after birth or during the period that follows up to age 5. If a child develops cerebral palsy after the 28-day mark, this is known as acquired cerebral palsy. Acquired CP is frequently caused by complications of an infection like meningitis or head trauma. For more about the possible causes of cerebral palsy, visit this page.
What Should I do if my Child has Cerebral Palsy in New Jersey?
If your child has cerebral palsy in New Jersey, there are numerous specialists, medical treatments, therapies, support groups, and other resources available to you. Seeking help from an experienced medical malpractice attorney is also highly advisable, as your child’s condition may have been preventable. Our Cerebral Palsy legal team will thoroughly investigate your child’s case to uncover medical negligence that may have contributed to your child’s cerebral palsy. For an absolutely free case evaluation, contact us online or by phone at (866)-708-8617.
Additional Resources & Information:
- Facts About Cerebral Palsy, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Cerebral palsy, MayoClinic
- Risk Factors for Cerebral Palsy
- Treatment Options for Cerebral Palsy
- Prognosis for Cerebral Palsy Sufferers