What is Cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy is the general term for a number of neurological conditions that affect movement and co-ordination.
Neurological conditions are caused by problems in the brain and nervous system.
Specifically, cerebral palsy is caused by a problem in the parts of the brain responsible for controlling muscles. The condition can occur if the brain develops abnormally or is damaged before, during or shortly after birth.
Causes of cerebral palsy include:
- an infection caught by the mother during pregnancy
- a difficult or premature birth
- bleeding in the baby’s brain
- changes (mutations) in the genes that affect the brain's development
The symptoms of cerebral palsy normally become apparent during the first three years of a child's life.
The main symptoms are:
- muscle stiffness or floppiness
- muscle weakness
- random and uncontrolled body movements
- balance and co-ordination problems
These symptoms can affect different areas of the body and vary in severity from person to person. Some people will only have minor problems, whereas others will be severely disabled.
There is no cure for cerebral palsy. However, there are numerous treatments available, which can treat many of its symptoms and help people with the condition to be as independent as possible.
These treatments include physiotherapy, occupational therapy and medication to relieve muscle stiffness and spasms. In some cases, surgery may also be needed.
Cerebral palsy is not a progressive condition. This means the original problem in the brain doesn't get worse with age, and life expectancy is usually unaffected.
Updated May 2020