March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month and as such, is the perfect time to help people to understand a little more about the condition. That’s why we’ve put together the following five key facts about cerebral palsy, in order to try to help improve the overall comprehension of the condition and its impact on people.
Cerebral Palsy is not an Illness
As has been hinted at above, cerebral palsy is better described as a condition than as an illness. In fact, it is a general term for a range of neurological conditions caused by some kind of injury to the immature brain and primarily to those parts of the brain responsible for control of the body’s muscles.
The brain injury can be caused prior to birth, during birth or after birth and there are a number of possible causes. These include infection, accident, a lack of oxygen to the brain and a potential genetic link. There are, however, still cases of cerebral palsy for which an obvious cause cannot be identified.
The Symptoms are Primarily Physical
In the vast majority of cases, the brain injury which leads to a condition that falls under the umbrella of cerebral palsy, affects the area of the brain responsible for controlling the body’s muscles. As such, the symptoms of the condition are primarily physical and learning, cognitive or sensory impairments only occur in a very small number of very severe cases.
One of the most common of those physical impacts of cerebral palsy include variations in muscle tone. Muscles can be either too flaccid or too stiff, in the latter case this can lead to spasms and as a result is known as spasticity. A lack of muscle coordination, or ataxia, is also a commonplace symptom as are tremors and involuntary movements of certain muscles.
Largely as a consequence of those primary symptoms, people with cerebral palsy often have trouble walking and can have speech problems or even have difficulty swallowing.
Severity Differs Dramatically
As cerebral palsy is an umbrella term which describes a collection of related neurological conditions, the severity of symptoms varies greatly from one person to another. There are a variety of different descriptions and terms used to explain the degree to which a person with cerebral palsy is impacted by their condition.
Diplegia, for instance, is the term given to the condition when two of a person’s limbs are subject to the symptoms described above. Hemiplegia, meanwhile, is the name given to when half of a person’s body is impacted and quadriplegia refers to symptoms affecting all four of a person’s limbs.
There is No Cure but Cerebral Palsy is Not Progressive
There is no cure for cerebral palsy and the condition is permanent, in that a person with CP will have the condition for the rest of their life. The correct disability equipment and therapies, however, can help to alleviate and relieve symptoms.
Muscle tone and practical abilities can be enhanced and honed via a combination of physiotherapy and using specialist disability aids. It is also important to understand that cerebral palsy is not a progressive condition. That means that symptoms and impacts of cerebral palsy do not get worse with age.
People Do Not Die of Cerebral Palsy
As cerebral palsy is not progressive, with the right support and treatment, the life expectancy is exactly the same as that of other individuals who do not have the condition.
In the most severe of cases however, such as those where a person is wheelchair bound and cannot maintain an upright sitting position, increased pressure can be placed upon the heart and lungs. That, therefore, can lead to secondary problems.
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