Cerebral Palsy – Causes and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders affecting the body movement, balance and posture. This is caused by an abnormal development or damage to one or more parts of the brain that regulates the motor activity and muscle tone. They first appear usually in infancy or early childhood. Infants suffering from this disorder reach their developmental milestones at a very slow rate. In the United States of America, cerebral palsy occurs in two to four infants out of every 1,000 births.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Most of the cases of this disorder are believed to be caused by infections or any other problems that occur before the birth of the baby. The causes include

Maternal Infections
Cerebral palsy is related to a variety of infections that occur in the mother during pregnancy or the infant gets infected during the first few months of life. The various illnesses that are linked to this disorder include:

  • German Measles: This is also called three-day measles, which can cause cerebral palsy but this can be prevented with a vaccine.
  • Chickenpox (varicella): This also causes harm to the fetus and can be prevented with a vaccine.
  • Cytomegalovirus: If a woman suffers from cytomegalovirus during pregnancy, it may cause birth defects.
  • Toxoplasmosis: This infection can harm the fetus during pregnancy.
  • Syphilis: This sexually transmitted disease can harm the fetus and cause birth defects.

Infant illnesses
The illnesses that have been linked with cerebral palsy include:

  • Meningitis: This causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and is very dangerous. One of the complications of this disease is cerebral palsy.
  • Viral encephalitis: This viral infection also causes inflammation of the brain and cerebral palsy can occur.
  • Congenital abnormalities: In some children the cause of this disease is that their brain development is poor while in the womb.
  • Strokes: Strokes can happen at any age even before birth which leads to cerebral palsy.
  • Lack of oxygen: Cerebral palsy is believed to occur due to lack of oxygen during birth.
  • Severe Jaundice: In some cases, where jaundice is left untreated, it can harm the brain permanently resulting in cerebral palsy.

The signs and symptoms range from mild to severe. They may include:

  • Muscle stiffness and exaggerated reflexes
  • Variations in muscle tone
  • Tremors
  • Lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements
  • Asymmetrical walking gait
  • Dragging the foot or leg while walking
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty in swallowing, sucking or speaking
  • Difficulty with precise motions like writing or buttoning a shirt

When to consult your child’s pediatrician?
When you find the above symptoms, consult a pediatrician immediately to avoid further complications.

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