How to Treat Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is the term given to a group of motor impairment conditions that affect an individual’s voluntary movement and coordination.  Cerebral palsy is not an illness but a description of a non-progressive disorder that can be attributed to a defect or lesion to the brain in the early years of development.  Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common and is characterized by increased muscle tone.

Athetoid cerebral palsy affects around 10 – 20% of patients and involves loss of control of movement and posture.  Ataxic cerebral palsy is rare and affects balance.  The most common causes of cerebral palsy are the result of the failure of part of the motor area of the brain to develop before birth or in the early years of life.  Causes can be hard to identify and possible factors involved can include infection during pregnancy or lack of oxygen during delivery.
Cerebral palsy treatment depends on the individual and the severity of symptoms.  For example, medication can help to control seizures and muscle spasms in some people.  Cerebral palsy is a chronic disorder in which brain impairment will not change over time, but physical ability and function may be affected by developmental changes.  There is no cure for CP but therapy can help people lead a full life.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

The causes of cerebral palsy are many and varied.  There is no one single cause.  The most common causes of cerebral palsy are factors affecting the development of the brain before birth such as infection during pregnancy.  For example, rubella or German measles in an expectant mother is known to be able to infect the fetus in the uterus and cause damage to the developing nervous system, which can result in cerebral palsy.  This can be prevented with a vaccination.

Cerebral palsyCauses of cerebral palsy such as specific events in certain stages of pregnancy can mean that CP is present at birth.  This is known as congenital cerebral palsy.  Cytomegalovirus and toxoplasmosis as well as jaundice are infections that can damage brain cells.  However, as symptoms of cerebral palsy may not be detected straightaway the exact cause in many cases remains unknown.
Causes of cerebral palsy that are acquired after birth are estimated to be responsible for around 10 – 20% of cereal palsy cases in the US.  This figure is higher in developing countries with lower standards of medical care.  Acquired cerebral palsey results from damage to the developing brain in the early years of life.  Causes can include infections such as meningitis and viral encephalitis or a head injury.
However, there are treatments to help those affected, live a more comfortable and normal life.
Step 1
Assemble a team of professionals. Because Cerebral Palsy includes a mixture of different medical and motor issues, it takes an entire team of professionals to help with the treatment process. These doctors may include, orthopedic surgeons, pediatricians, general medical practitioners, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech therapists.
Step 2
Initiate physical therapy. The next step in the treatment of cerebral palsy is working with a physical therapist. Since the disorder affects the muscles, a physical therapist can help with strengthening the muscles, mastering basic motor skills such as sitting and standing, and helping stretch the muscles to help increase flexibility and protect the joints.
Step 3
Begin drug treatments. Drugs may also be used in conjunction with physical therapy to help train the muscles. Patients with cerebral palsy suffer from spasticity and muscle seizures. These can hinder treatment, and become a danger to the patient if untreated.
Injections, such as Botox, are often used to help force the affected muscle to relax. These injections will usually keep the muscle relaxed for up to six months. However, without continuing injections, the muscle will regain spasticity and once again need to be treated. The drug Baclofen is also showing promise in recent research to help relieve muscle spasticity.
Step 4
Consider surgery. A more drastic measure for Cerabral Palsy is a surgical procedure called dorsal rhizotomy. This procedure involves cutting select nerve fibers contained at the base of the spine that may relieve some of the muscle spasms. As with any procedure involving the spine, this procedure can be dangerous. The surgery is only recommended for severe cases in which there has been no success with other treatment methods.
Step 5
Work with an occupational therapist. Cerebral Palsy can affect all parts of the patients motor skills. As such, an occupational therapist is a vital step in the treatment of the disorder. An occupational therapist will help with learning and improving the day-to-day tasks that it takes to live a normal life.
This includes learning the basics such as how to talk, walk, dress, and eat. New technology is also available to help more severe cases speak using a computerized voice synthesizer. The occupational or physical therapist may also employ other types of mechanical help such as cerebral palsy toys, braces, walkers, and wheel chairs to help with the treatment
Can it be prevented?

Cerebral palsyChildren who are born prematurely or who are very low birth weight (less than 1,500 grams or about 3 1/3 pounds) are more likely to have problems that might lead to cerebral palsy. However, children who are full term and normal birth weight can also have cerebral palsy.

Some causes of cerebral palsy can be prevented. For example, bike helmets and car seats can prevent head injuries that might result in cerebral palsy. Another cause that can be prevented is kernicterus, a kind of brain damage that happens when a newborn baby has too much jaundice.

For some newborns the liver makes excess yellow pigment called bilirubin of which if it builds up in her body, the skin and eyes might turn yellow, a condition called jaundice. If the condition is not treated it can cause a damage to the baby’s brain and that may lead to cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy cannot be cured. Treatment can, however, help a person take part in family, school, and work activities as much as possible. There are many treatments, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, medicine, operations, and braces.

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