Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disorder resulting from a variety of causes. It is primarily a dysfunction of tone, posture and movement secondary to brain abnormality or damage and may also be associated with additional handicaps. Onset occurs before brain growth and development are complete, that is from conception to the second birthday.
Although the disorder is lifelong, that is, it can not be cured, it is not unchanging. Movement patterns may change during development, maturation and / or intervention by health professionals.
It is difficult to describe cerebral palsy symptoms without using clinical terms. There are several essential types of cerebral palsy, determined by the location of damage within the brain. We will describe these types now.
The clinical features of spastic cerebral palsy are those associated with damage to the cerebral cortex and corresponding pyramidal tracts. Symptoms and motor problems include paucity of movement, increased resistance to passive movement, muscle spasm, clonus (rapid contracting and relaxation of muscles), exaggerated deep tendon reflexes and absence of change in muscle tone associated with a change in posture, for example, moving from a supine to a sitting position.
In this type, abnormalities in motor coordination affect the body as a whole. This is associated with damage to the basal ganglia and extrapyramidal tracts. It can lead to athetosis, which is an irregular writhing movement, exaggerated by active movement and disappearing or decreasing during sleep. Dystonia reiter to the adoption of bizarre, purposeless posturing of the extremities of the body as a whole. Hypotonia refers to the lack or decrease in muscle tone coupled with a lack of resistance to passive movement.
In this form of cerebral palsy the cerebellum is the site of damage. Symptoms include incoordination and lack of balance. An intention tremor appears on active movement.
Those people who display more than one type of cerebral palsy are said to have mixed cerebral palsy.
The majority of people with cerebral palsy have one or more of the following associated handicaps and symptoms: learning disabilities and intellectual impairment (although generally those with diskinic cerebral palsy are less affected than those with spastic cerebral palsy); epilepsy occurs in about one third of all cases; one third of all cases have visual problems of varying degrees of severity; hearing defects affect 10% of those with cerebral palsy; speech and language problems are present in half of all cases; other problems that are frequently associated with cerebral palsy are disorders of perception, emotion, behavior and sleep.