Today we are going to be talking about Cerebral Palsy (CP) in depth. I thought it is really important to understand what it is and the history of it. I hope that this post will be a guide about Cerebral Palsy that everyone can share with others. Every year there are 10,000 babies who are born with Cerebral Palsy.
What is Cerebral Palsy? It is a term used to describe a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. This is something surprising because when I first learned about CP, it was damage to the brain that affects the muscles. The new definition is from the United Cerebral Palsy website.
In the 1860’s, an English doctor named William Little noticed that children with stiffness in their arms and legs. These children had trouble crawling, grabbing objects, and walking. They didn’t get better as they were growing up. This was known as Little’s disease for many years. Little concluded that these children were premature at birth or had trouble at birth. So, Little concluded it was a lack of oxygen at birth.
In 1897, Sigmund Freud, who was a famous psychiatrist, disagreed with Little. Freud noticed that the children also had problems with mental retardation visual issues, and seizures. He suggested that it might occur in the woman’s womb. For several decades, doctors, families, and researchers thought that Cerebral Palsy was caused by complications at birth. In 1980’s, research showed small percentages of CP were a result of complications at birth.
Cause of CP
What causes CP? This is where the damage to the brain comes in the picture. One or more specific areas of the brain are damaged. The part of the brain that is affected by Cerebral Palsy is the cerebrum, which is the largest portion of the brain, It controls many things such as voluntary movement, thinking, speech and hearing. CP also affects the cerebral motor cortex, which is the portion that lies at the back of the frontal lobe.
The cerebral motor cortex controls movement and posture. When this part of the brain is damaged, the person might have a lack of muscle coordination, stiff or tight muscles, might walk on their toes, or maybe floppy. The person might not have fine motor skills. This all depends on how much damage occurred to the cerebral motor cortex.
White and Gray Matter
There are two types of matters in the brain. The first is called white matter, which contains a lot of nerve fibers. These nerve fibers are wrapped in myelin, which is white. The other matter is called gray matter that is the majority of the brain tissue.
The gray matter processes the information in the brain, but the white matter transfers the signals to the rest of the body. Some Cerebral Palsy is due to damage to the white matter. It is called periventricular leukomalacia or PVL. The damage in the PVL looks like tiny holes in the white matter.
Cerebral Palsy Types
There are many types of Cerebral Palsy. The most common type is spastic or Pyramidal. When a person has Spastic CP, their body is tight and joints are difficult to move. They also have problems talking and eating,
Spastic CP is also broken down into four types. The first type is called hemiplegia or diplegia. It is when one arm and one leg on the same side of the body or both legs are affected. This is the most common type of Spastic.
The next type of spastic CP is called monoplegia. It affects only one arm or one leg.
Next type is called quadriplegia, which affects both arms and legs. It also affects the trunk and the muscles that control the mouth, tongue, and windpipe. Eating and talking are difficult.
The last type of spastic is triplegia. It usually affects both arms and one leg or both legs and one arm.
The next type of Cerebral Palsy is called nonspastic or extrapyramidal. There are two types of nonspastic. The first type is known as dyskinetic. It is related to muscle tone, which can be loose or tight. A person with this type of nonspastic has jerky or uncontrolled slow continuous movements, which they are involuntary. The movement affects the face and neck, hands, feet, arms, legs, and sometimes the torso.
Dyskinetic is also broken down into two types. The first is called athetoid or hyperkinetic. When a person has athetoid, their face and tongue muscles are affected. This person has trouble speaking, choking, eating and drinking. They sometimes make unusual facial expressions.
The second type is dystonic. It is when the body and the neck are held in a stiff position. This type is not seen a lot.
The next type of Cerebral Palsy is ataxic. This type is the rarest form of CP. It involves the whole body. A person who has ataxic CP has problems with balance, precise movements, coordination, and hand control
Early Signs of CP
What are the early signs of Cerebral Palsy? The signs are usually noticeable before the baby is 18 months old. The parents usually see their child not doing the normal things that they should be doing like crawling, sitting up, and standing. This is referred as developmental delay. Sometimes parents might notice the baby is having trouble with sucking a bottle or holding their head up.
Can Cerebral Palsy be prevented? The answer is yes. There are several ways and if the pregnant woman tested for the RH. If the RH is negative, they can be immunized within 72 hours after the birth, thereby preventing adverse consequences of blood incompatibility in the baby. If the newborn baby has jaundice, light treatment can be done.
While the woman is pregnant, there are some things she could do. She should try to reduce exposure to viruses. Don’t have many X-rays, drugs, and medications. If the woman is diabetic, she should try to control it as much as possible. The most important thing is to stay healthy and eat right during the pregnancy. The woman should protect the infant from accident or injury.
Cerebral Palsy is a condition that you will not know how it will affect your child until they grow up. Once the doctor tells you it is CP, please don’t lose hope for your child. Therapy is the best thing for your child because it strengthens the child’s body. Places like Easter Seals work with kids with CP every day and see miracles happening daily. So don’t lose hope for your child.
If you know of someone who just found out that their child has CP, please share this guide for parents with them.