Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders which affect body movement, balance and posture. In simple terms, it is paralysis of the brain as a result of injury. The severity of this condition ranges from mild to minor and very profound.
Incidence: It is present in all sexes, races, ethnic groups, people of all ages and social classes. Statistics reveal that over 1,000,000 people have it in the United States of America alone.
The condition is classified into three main groups:
1. Spastic (Pyramidal): This is characterized by increased muscular tone, with stiff muscles and awkward movement. Paralysis is classified according to the part of the body that is involved. The term Diplegia is used when both legs are paralysed; hemiplegia reiter to a situation wherey one side of the body is involved. Quadriplegia (tetraplegia) refers to paralysis of all four limbs while paraplegia is the paralysis of both legs and the lower trunk. Quadriplegia usually accounts for about 70% to 80% of all cases.
2. Dyskinetic (extrapyramidal): This affects coordination of movements, and is of two types.
i. Ataxia: Balance and coordination are affected. The individual usually has unsteady gait if at all he / she is able to work. The sufferer finds it difficult to cope with quick and controlled movements such as writing, typing, etc. Ataxia makes up about 5-10% of all cases.
ii. Atethoid: There is uncontrolled, slow movements affecting certain parts of the body such as the tongue, face and mouth. Athetoid accounts for about 10-20% of all cases.
3. Mixed: This is a combination of various types of cerebral palsy. The individual usually has normal or above average level of intelligence. The children affected by this condition can improve upon their disabilities if well handled on time.
Causes of Cerebral palsy
Condition typically results from abnormal development or damage to one or more parts of the brain, chiefly the parts in charge of muscle tone and motor activity or movement. Some of the causes therefore include:
1. Injury in early pregnancy, during birth (labor) or in early childhood
2. Infection, thyroid disorder or other medical problems in the mother
3. Rhesus incompatibility between mother and the future which results in brain damage to the foetus.
4. Low birth weight: Common in children with weight less than 2 pounds at birth.
5. Multiple births: Also common in multiple births such as twins, triplets, quadruplets, quintuples, octoplets, etc
6. Premature birth
7. Severe jaundice: This can also result in brain damage.
8. Genetic defects.