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About This Condition
Living with cerebral palsy poses difficult physical challenges. One of these challenges is severe spasticity, which can get in the way of daily activities. Fortunately, there are therapies that can minimise severe spasticity in some individuals.
Cerebral palsy is a movement and posture disorder resulting from an injury or defect to the developing brain (brain damage).
Cerebral palsy can be caused by brain injury during intrauterine life or at birth. It can also be acquired after birth. In this case, cerebral palsy is usually caused by brain damage in the first few months or years of life.
Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of cerebral palsy. However, it's important to know that these risk factors will not necessarily result in the disease.
These risk factors are usually present:
Risk factors for cerebral palsy include:1
Early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before a child is 18 months old. Infants with cerebral palsy are frequently slow to reach developmental milestones, such as learning to roll over, sit, crawl, smile, or walk. Parents are often the first to suspect that their infant is not developing motor skills normally.1
Symptoms that can accompany cerebral palsy include:
Cerebral palsy ranges from mild to severe. Physical signs of cerebral palsy include weakness and floppiness of muscles, or spasticity and rigidity. In some cases, neurological disorders (such as mental retardation or seizures) also occur in children with cerebral palsy.2
Cerebral palsy is usually diagnosed early in life. Your doctor will review your medical and family history and perform a physical evaluation. In addition to checking for the typical symptoms, the doctor may perform specialised tests to help diagnose the condition. Your doctor can help distinguish normal variation in development resulting from a developmental disorder.
Spasticity is caused by damage or injury to the part of the central nervous system (the brain or spinal cord) that controls voluntary movement. This damage disrupts important signals between the nervous system and muscles, creating an imbalance that increases muscle activity or spasms.
Spasticity can make one's movement, posture, and balance difficult. It may affect a person's ability to move one or more limbs, or to move one side of the body. Sometimes spasticity is so severe that it gets in the way of daily activities, sleep patterns, and care giving. In certain situations, this loss of control can be dangerous for the individual.
UCP Research and Educational Foundation. Cerebral Palsy Facts and Figures. Available at: www.ucp.org. Accessed January 11, 2008.
Mayo Clinic. Nervous System. Cerebral Palsy. Available at: www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed January 13, 2008.
Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.