Ever noticed young children struggling to speak, experiencing involuntary movements, excessive drooling, seizure or difficulties in breathing? Well, that is most likely a case of cerebral palsy; a disease that only affects children.
“Cerebral” has to do with the brain. The word “palsy” means weakness or problems with body movement.
Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect movement and muscle tone or posture. It is caused by damage that occurs to the immature brain as it develops, most often before birth. It is the most common childhood physical disability.
Signs and symptoms appear during infancy or preschool years. People living with cerebral palsy have problems swallowing and commonly have eye muscle imbalance, in which the eyes do not focus on the same object. In addition, they might have reduced range of motion at various joints of their bodies due to muscle stiffness.
What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?
Symptoms of cerebral palsy can become more severe or less severe over time. They also vary depending on the part of the brain that was affected.
Some of the more common signs include:
• Lack of balance and muscle coordination (ataxia).
• Tremors or involuntary movements
• Slow, writhing movements
• Delays in reaching motor skills milestones, such as pushing up on arms, sitting up or crawling
• Difficulty walking, such as walking on toes, a crouched gait, a scissors-like gait with knees crossing, a wide gait or an asymmetrical gait
• Excessive drooling or problems with swallowing
• Difficulty with sucking or eating
• Delays in speech development or difficulty speaking
• Learning difficulties
What causes cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy is caused by an abnormality in brain development, most often before a child is born. In many cases, the cause is not known. Factors that can lead to problems with brain development include:
• Gene mutations that lead to abnormal development
• Maternal infections that affect the developing fetus
• Fetal stroke, a disruption of blood supply to the developing brain
• Bleeding into the brain in the womb or as a newborn
• Infant infections that cause inflammation in or around the brain
• Traumatic head injury to an infant from a motor vehicle accident or fall
• Lack of oxygen to the brain related to difficult labor or delivery, although birth-related asphyxia is much less commonly a cause than historically thought
Complications of cerebral palsy
• Premature aging. Some type of premature aging will affect most people with cerebral palsy in their 40s because of the strain the condition puts on their bodies.
• Malnutrition. Swallowing or feeding problems can make it difficult for someone who has cerebral palsy, particularly an infant, to get enough nutrition. This can impair growth and weaken bones. Some children need a feeding tube to get enough nutrition.
• Mental health conditions. People with cerebral palsy might have mental health conditions, such as depression. Social isolation and the challenges of coping with disabilities can contribute to depression.
• Heart and lung disease. People with cerebral palsy may develop heart disease and lung disease and breathing disorders.
Is cerebral palsy preventable ?
Most cases of cerebral palsy cannot be prevented, but one can lessen its risks. If an individual is pregnant or planning to become pregnant, she can take these steps to keep healthy and minimize pregnancy complications:
• Get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated against diseases such as rubella, preferably before getting pregnant, might prevent an infection that could cause fetal brain damage.
• Taking care of oneself. The healthier a woman is heading into a pregnancy, the less likely she will develop an infection that results in cerebral palsy.
• Regular visits to the hospital during pregnancy are a good way to reduce health risks to the mother and the unborn baby. Seeing a doctor regularly can help prevent premature birth, low birth weight and infections.
• Practice good child safety. Prevent head injuries by providing the child with a car seat, bicycle helmet, safety rails on beds and appropriate supervision.
• Avoid alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. These have been linked to cerebral palsy risk.
Sad, we have to be careful not just for ourselves but also for our unborn children