Cerebral palsy affects an estimated 800,000 people in the
U.S, and 3 out of every 1,000 children. It’s a condition that affects every
aspect of the human body, from movement, muscle tone to developmental brain
abnormalities, vision and hearing problems, and seizures. According to the
Centers for Disease Control, about 10,000 babies per years in the U.S. will develop
cerebral palsy, and of these babies many of them will need specialized physical
therapy and pain management doctors throughout their lives.
What is Cerebral
Cerebral palsy (CP) is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a
disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is cause by injury or
abnormal development in the immature brain, most often before birth. Cerebral
actually refers to the brain while Palsy refers to the physical aspects of the
condition. Though most cases of cerebral palsy develop before birth, CP can be
the direct result of a traumatic brain injury at any point in life.
Symptoms of CP occur in the first few years of life, or soon
after a traumatic accident, and only worsen as time goes on. Although symptoms
vary greatly, there is rarely a misdiagnosis issue with it comes to CP. The
Cerebral or neurological symptoms can include difficulty with vision or
hearing, seizures, abnormal pain perceptions, dental problems, and intellectual
disabilities. On the Palsy, or physical, sides of things, symptoms include
variations in muscle tone, ‘spastic’ or ‘rigid’ muscles, tremors, motor skill
delays, favoring one side of the body, difficulty swallowing, difficulty with
sucking or eating, delayed speech, and difficulty with precise motions.
While there are many types cerebral palsy, the most common
is Spastic CP which includes rigid, tight and spastic muscles, muscles only
functioning properly on one side of the body, or severe muscle and movement difficulties
so that a wheelchair is required. Other forms of cerebral palsy include
Athetoid Dyskinetic, Ataxic, Hypotonic, Congenital, or Erb’s CP.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
The exact cause for many cases of cerebral palsy can be hard
to pinpoint. If CP occurs in an adult, it’s easier to see that a traumatic
event or accident has occurred to damage the brain, but before birth it’s hard
for physicians to determine the exact cause for CP.
Cerebral Palsy is not one disease
with a single origin, like chicken pox or measles. It is a group of disorders
that are related but probably stem from a number of different causes. When
physicians diagnose Cerebral Palsy in an individual child, they look at risk
factors, the symptoms, the mother’s and child’s medical history, and the onset
of the disorder. – CerebralPalsy.org
There are, however, common factors that may lead to the type
of brain development issues that can cause CP. These predictors include drugs
and alcohol, infection such as rubella, toxoplasmosis, syphilis, or chickenpox,
exposure to toxins such as methyl mercury, thyroid problems, lack of oxygen or
blood supply, or premature birth.
Jump to Part II – Pain Management for CP