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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Stages, and Treatments

Commonly asked questions about Cerebral Palsy:

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy, also known as “CP,” is described by loss or impairment of motor function. It is usually caused by brain damage due to abnormal development of the brain that occurs during a child’s development before, during, or after birth. CP affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.

Individuals with cerebral palsy were most likely born with this condition.

Individuals with cerebral palsy were most likely born with this condition.

What are the Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?

Symptoms include exaggerated reflexes, flimsy or rigid limbs, and involuntary motions that usually appear by early childhood.

People may experience:

  • Muscular:
    • Difficulty with bodily movements
    • Muscle rigidity
    • Permanent shortening of muscle
    • Problems with coordination, stiff muscles
    • Overactive reflexes
    • Involuntary movements
    • Muscle weaknesses/spasms
    • Paralysis on one side of the body
  • Developmental:
    • Failure to reach goals
    • Learning disability
    • Slow growth
    • Speech delay in a child
  • Speech:
    • Speech disorder
    • Stuttering
  • Other:
    • Constipation
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Drooling
    • Hearing loss
    • Leaking of Urine
    • Limping
    • Paralysis
    • Physical deformity
    • Seizures

What is the Cause of Cerebral Palsy?

The cause of CP is a brain injury or malformation occurring while the brain is developing – before, during, or after birth. The result causes the brain of the child to lose muscle control, coordination, tone, reflex, posture and balance. However, cerebral palsy is unique to every individual due to the type, extent, and timing of the injury in the developing brain. CP is a result of:

  • Prenatal disturbance of brain cell migration: Genetic and environmental factors that disturb brain cell migration as they move to their appropriate location during brain development
  • Prenatal poor insulation (myelination) or development of nerve cell fibers: Brain function is impeded when myelin provides an inapt cover over the nerve cells aiding transmission
  • Perinatal brain cell death: Birthing process events that rupture blood vessels or eliminate oxygen in the brain
  • Postnatal non-functional/inappropriate connections between brain cells: trauma, infections, and asphyxia that damage connections developing in the brain

What are the Types of Cerebral Palsy?

CP is typically classified according to the type of body movement or posture problem it faces.

Spastic (pyramidal) Cerebral Palsy: This is one of the most common type of cerebral palsies that develop in tight muscles and are in places of the body which are unable to relax. Joints become stiff and hard to move, and usually the affected patient has problems controlling their movements. This often includes talking and eating difficulties as well as coordination and balance.

Nonspastic (extrapyramidal) Cerebral Palsy: Nonspastic forms of cerebral palsy include dyskinetic and ataxic cerebral palsy.

  • Dyskinetic: CP is associated with muscle tone that fluctuates between being tight and lose. On occasions, rapid and jerky or uncontrolled slow movements begin to occur involuntarily. These movements often affect the face, neck, hands, feet, arms, and legs.
  • Ataxic: Cerebral Palsy is the rarest type of CP and involves the entire body as they affect the trunk, hands, arms, and legs.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy: Some children are born with more than one type of cerebral palsy which can include spastic legs and facial muscle control problems.

Total Body Cerebral Palsy: This type of CP affects the entire body to some degree as complications of cerebral palsy and other medical problems are more likely to develop when the entire body is involved.

What Drugs are Used to Treat Cerebral Palsy?

A large variation of medication can be used to treat various types of CP and combat common conditions or symptoms.

Anticholinergics (uncontrolled body movements)
  • Benztropine mesylate
  • Carbidopa-levodopa (Sinemet)
  • Glycopyrrolate (Robinul)
  • Procyclidine hydrochloride (Kemadrin)
  • Trihexyphenidyl hydrochloride
Anticonvulsants (seizure medications)
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal)
  • Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)
  • Topiramate (Topamax)
  • Zonisamide (Zonegran)
Antidepressants (depression medications)
  • Behavioral therapy: Identify and address a new perception.
  • Biofeedback and massage therapy: Energize through the use of meditation or relaxation.
  • Healthy diet and exercise
  • Sleep: Rest properly to gain energy.
  • Support groups
  • Psychotherapy: See a professional to improve your state of mental health.
Antispastic (muscle relaxers)
  • Baclofen (Botulinum toxin, or Botox(R))
  • Diazepam (Valium(R))
  • Dantrolene
  • Flexeril (Cyclobenzadrine)
  • Dantrium (Dantrolene)
  • Intrathecal Baclofen
  • Tizanidine
Anti-inflammatories (pain control)
  • Aspirin: suppresses prostaglandins, regulates body temperature, and constricts blood
  • Corticosteroids: anti-inflammatory agent that aids glucose utilization, fat metabolism, and bone development
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): a non-steroid substance which has analgesic, antipyretic, and platelet-producing capabilities to primarily treat mild to moderate pain, and fever
  • Steroids: decrease inflammation and reduce activity within the immune system
Stool softeners
  • healthy diet rich in high-fiber foods
  • laxatives

How do I Prevent Cerebral Palsy?

Most cases of CP cannot be prevented, but there is a possibility of lessening any risks. If pregnant or becoming pregnant, taking these steps can keep one healthy and minimize complications.

  • Vaccination: Vaccinations against diseases like rubella may prevent infections that could cause fetal brain damage.
  • Staying healthy: Crucial for heading into pregnancy, the less likely it will be to prevent an infection that can lead to cerebral palsy.
  • Prenatal care: Regular visits to your doctor during pregnancy can reduce to health risks to both child and mother. This can also help prevent premature birth, low birth weight, and infections.
  • Child Safety: Preventing your child from injuries by using a car seat, bicycle helmet and safety rails can reduce the risk of any possible injury and cerebral palsy.

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