Cerebral Palsy – What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy or CP (sometimes referred as cerebral pares) is a term used to describe a number of permanent disorders of the development of movement and posture that are non-progressive and non-contagious. CP causes activity limitation due to non-progressive disturbances that happened during pregnancy or infancy on human brain. The name comes from the cerebrum, which is the affected part of the brain, and palsy, which refers to the movement disorder.

CP is caused by damage to the motor control centers of the developing brain. It can occur during pregnancy (about 75% of all cases), during childbirth (about 5% of all cases) or after birth (about 15% of all cases) up to about age three. Cerebral palsy is divided into three major classifications showing different movement difficulties. They are:

1. Spastic

Spastic Cerebral Palsy is the most common type of CP, occurring in about 70%-80% of all cases. People affected with this type of CP are hyper-tonic (upper motor neuron dysfunction, causing muscle stiffness) and have a neuromuscular condition stemming from damage to the corticospinal tract or the motor cortex that affects the nervous system’s ability to receive gamma amino-butyric acid in the area(s) affected by the disability.

Spastic CP can be further divided into:

– spastic hemiplegia where only one side is affected.

– spastic diplegia where lower extremities are affected.

– spastic tetraplegia where all four limbs are affected equally.

2. Ataxic

Ataxic type occurs when cerebellum gets damaged. This form of CP occurs in only 10% of all cases. People with ataxic CP sometimes experience tremors and hypotonia (disorder that causes low muscle tone; result is often reduced muscle strength). Writing, typing and other motor skills are usually affected, as well as balance while walking.

3. Athetoid/Dyskinetic

Athetoid or dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy occurs in 10%-20% of all cases, and is manifests as mixed muscle tone. Individuals with athetoid/dyskinetic CP have trouble holding themselves up for sitting/walking, while some show involuntary motion. They often need significant concentration in order to get their hand to certain position.

While most research and books deal with infants and/or children affected by cerebral palsy, there is a growing need to address adults who suffer from CP. This condition has no known cure. Fortunately, there are many treatment options which can help individuals affected by CP, as well as their families, deal with this condition and help them lead healthy and fulfilling lives.