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Cerebral Palsy FAQ

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy refers to a classification of neurological disorders that cause limited muscle coordination and body movement starting at an early age. The condition is due to brain tissue damage in the areas that control muscle movements.

 

What causes cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage to parts of the brain that affect muscle coordination, movement and balance. Approximately 75% of cases are due to factors occurring before or during birth, while 25% are caused after a child is born.

Specifically, cerebral palsy brain damage has been linked to oxygen deprivation, toxins, severe jaundice, infections, radiation, trauma from birth or birth tools, delayed birth, emergency c-section, low birth weight, low blood sugar, choking, poisoning, shaken baby syndrome and lead poisoning.

Some of these factors may be brought on by the negligence of medical professionals or injury by a third party, while others are naturally occurring. It is estimated that 20% of cerebral palsy cases were preventable.

 

What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?

The signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy may vary greatly from patient to patient depending on the severity of the condition. It may also present earlier in some children than others. Generally, however, doctors look for the following issues over a period of time in order to diagnose CP:

  • Abnormal movement, coordination or posture
  • Reduced or delayed fine motor skills
  • Below average height, weight or cognitive development
  • Difficulty hearing or focusing
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Speech delay

 

How common is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy occurs in approximately 2-3 out of every 1,000 live births. Each year, 10,000 newly born babies are diagnosed, and the condition currently affects around 500,000 children in the U.S.

Cerebral palsy is the leading cause of childhood disability in the United States. Despite changes in medical practice, the occurrence rate of cerebral palsy has remained relatively steady over the past 50 years.

 

Is there a cure for cerebral palsy?

At this time there is no cure for the underlying brain damage that causes cerebral palsy. However, there are numerous surgical, therapeutic and rehabilitative treatment options available that can be used to counteract the effects of CP.

Researchers have begun new studies on the viability of using stem cells to regenerate damaged brain tissue, which could be used to treat or cure cerebral palsy. So far, early trials look hopeful. However, experts caution that additional testing and larger control groups are needed.

 

How is cerebral palsy treated?

Although there is no cure for the brain damage that causes cerebral palsy, the effects of the disorder can be treated to optimize a child’s function and quality of life.

Treatment of cerebral palsy often includes:

  • Surgery to correct muscle abnormalities or sever spastic nerves
  • Medications for seizures, muscle spasms and pain
  • Physical therapy to strengthen and stretch muscles
  • Occupational therapy to develop fine motor skills
  • Speech therapy to address communication problems
  • Mechanical aids like braces, wheelchairs and walkers
  • Communication aids like speech synthesizers
  • Counseling to help the child and family cope with the condition

 

Can I get help for my child with cerebral palsy?

Yes. There are numerous charities, government and private assistance organizations and federal laws that focus on providing benefits, treatment and education for those affected by disabling conditions like cerebral palsy.

Also, in the event your child’s CP was caused by medical mistake or negligence, a lawyer can help you recover substantial compensation to cover their lifetime needs.

Visit our Resources and Legal Help sections for more information on the help available.

 

Can my child go to school with cerebral palsy?

Absolutely. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal special education law that ensures all children suspected of having a disability receive a no-cost evaluation of their ability and educational needs, as well as adaptive education.

These benefits begin at an early age up until they reach the age of 21. After age 3, the education needs of children with disabilities are met by the public education process with special services.