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What is cerebral palsy and how is it caused?

    Cerebral palsy, or CP, is a group of four different disorders that can impact people's mobility, posture, and ability to maintain ba...

 


 

Cerebral palsy, or CP, is a group of four different disorders that can impact people's mobility, posture, and ability to maintain balance. There are several potential causes of cerebral palsy that may lead to the development of one of these disorders.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are four types of cerebral palsy that affect different parts of the brain, leading to movement disorders.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Spastic cerebral palsy is the type of CP most commonly diagnosed. It impacts approximately 80% of individuals with CP, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Individuals who have spastic cerebral palsy suffer from stiffened muscles that lead to improper posture and limited mobility. While some people may have muscle stiffness in the arms, others may experience it in the legs or even all four limbs along with the face and torso.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

While spastic CP affects the muscles to limit mobility and affect posture, ataxic cerebral palsy impacts a person's coordination and balance. As a result, many people with ataxic CP struggle to walk, and may also experience difficulty with fine motor control, such as writing. Areas of gross motor control may also be affected in certain individuals, leading to difficulties with manipulating their hands and arms.

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy can make it difficult for a person to move his or her feet, legs, arms, and hands. Subsequently, he or she may struggle to walk and sit down. Unlike ataxic cerebral palsy that can merely limit mobility, dyskinetic CP can cause uncontrollable movement in a persons' muscles and limbs. The face is also frequently affected, leading to restricted movement of the mouth muscles.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy

It's also possible for people to have more than one cerebral palsy disorder. The individual may suffer from a combination of spastic and dyskinetic CP, or other combinations that restrict mobility, posture, and balance.

The Causes of Cerebral Palsy

In addition to the different types of CP that people can develop, there are several possible causes of cerebral palsy. Generally, CP results from abnormal development of a child's muscle control capabilities, but the causes of this improper development can vary.

In some cases, cerebral palsy can develop congenitally before birth, during birth, or soon after birth. CP can also develop early on in a child's life as the brain develops.

Some potential causes of either congenital or acquired CP include:

Premature Birth

One possible cause of congenital CP is premature birth. If a child is born earlier than the 37th week of pregnancy he or she is more likely to develop cerebral palsy. The chances of developing these disorders are even greater if the child is born before the 32nd week.

Birth Injuries

Certain types of birth injuries may also lead to the development of CP. Causes of birth injury such as rupturing of the uterus, detachment of the placenta, and complications involving the umbilical cord could interrupt oxygen supply.

Low Birthweight

Children weighing less than 5.5 lbs are also at risk of developing CP.

Infections Throughout a Pregnancy

Some infections can produce cytokine proteins that cause inflammation, which could cause the development of congenital CP through brain damage.

Assisted Reproductive Technology

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a type of infertility treatment. ART may indirectly cause CP, specifically through multiple births or preterm delivery in most cases.

Infection or Injury After Birth

Once born, the child may still be able to develop acquired CP from brain infections such as encephalitis or meningitis. Brain injuries from physical impact may also cause CP.

Insufficient Blood Flow to the Brain

Other complications such as strokes or blood clotting issues that lead to restricted blood flow in the brain may contribute to CP.

Understanding what cerebral palsy is and what causes the condition can keep parents aware of the potential signs and risk factors.