Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 Days of Awareness: Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy

Awareness Color: Green
Awareness Month: March
Awareness Day: March 20

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills (the ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful way). CP is usually caused by brain damage that occurs before or during a child's birth, or during the first 3 to 5 years of a child's life.
Cerebral palsy is caused by injuries or abnormalities of the brain. Most of these problems occur as the baby grows in the womb, but they can happen at any time during the first 2 years of life, while the baby's brain is still developing.
In some people with cerebral palsy, parts of the brain are injured due to low levels of oxygen (hypoxia) in the area. It is not known why this occurs.
Premature infants have a slightly higher risk of developing cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy may also occur during early infancy as a result of several conditions, including:
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Brain infections (encephalitis, meningitis, herpes simplex infections)
  • Head injury
  • Infections in the mother during pregnancy (rubella)
  • Severe jaundice
In some cases the cause of cerebral palsy is never determined.
Signs and Symptoms
The primary effect of cerebral palsy is impairment of muscle tone, gross and fine motor functions, balance, control, reflexes, and posture. Oral motor dysfunction, such as swallowing and feeding difficulties, speech impairment, and poor muscle tone in the face, can also indicate cerebral palsy. Associative conditions, such as sensory impairment, seizures, and learning disabilities that are not a result of the same brain injury, occur frequently with cerebral palsy. When present, these associative conditions may contribute to a clinical diagnosis of cerebral palsy.
The most common early sign of cerebral palsy is developmental delay. Delay in reaching key growth milestones, such as rolling over, sitting, crawling and walking are cause for concern. Practitioners will also look for signs such as abnormal muscle tone, unusual posture, persistent infant reflexes, and early development of hand preference.
Many signs and symptoms are not readily visible at birth, except in some severe cases, and may appear within the first three to five years of life as the brain and child develop.
If the delivery was traumatic, or if significant risk factors were encountered during pregnancy or birth, doctors may suspect cerebral palsy immediately and observe the child carefully. In moderate to mild cases of cerebral palsy, parents are often first to notice if the child doesn’t appear to be developing on schedule. If parents do begin to suspect cerebral palsy, they will likely want to consult their physician and ask about testing to begin ruling out or confirming cerebral palsy or other conditions.
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