What is Cerebral Palsy (CP)?

Cerebral Palsy is a condition that affects muscle control and movement. It's usually caused by an injury to the brain before, during or after birth. 

Is there a cure for Cerebral Palsy?

There is no cure. Physiotherapy and other therapies can often help people become more independent.

What are the symptoms of CP?

No two people will be affected in the same way. Treatments and therapies should reflect individual needs.

Who does CP affect?

In the UK, Cerebral Palsy affects about one in every 400 children. 

What causes CP?

There may be no obvious single reason. The main causes include:

  • Infection in the early part of pregnancy
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain
  • Abnormal brain development
  • A genetic link (though this is quite rare)
You may also want to read information on clinical negligence.

What increases the chances of CP?

The following factors can increase the likelihood of Cerebral Palsy:

  • Difficult or premature birth
  • Twins or multiple birth
  • Mother’s age being below 20 or over 40
  • Father under 20 years
  • First child or fifth (or more) child
  • Baby of low birth weight (less than 2.5 pounds)
  • Premature birth (less than 37 weeks)

A combination of factors such as low birth weight and being a twin can increase the probability.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are 3 main types. Many people will have a mixture of these. 

Spastic Cerebral Palsy 

Spasticity means the muscle tone is tight and stiff. This reduces a person's range of movement. As the muscle tone is so tight, spasticity can be very painful with muscles often going into spasm. It can affect many different areas of the body.

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Sometimes called dystonic, athetoid or choreoathetoid cerebral palsy. Dyskinetic CP causes uncontrolled, involuntary, sustained or intermittent muscle contractions. It may be difficult to maintain an upright position. The person may find it difficult to control the tongue, vocal chords and breathing. This may affect speech and language.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy 

Ataxia is defined as an inability to activate the correct pattern of muscles during movement. This affects balance and spatial awareness. It can make it difficult to judge your body position in relation to things around you. Ataxia can affect the whole body. Most people with ataxic cerebral palsy can walk but they will be unsteady with shaky movements. Ataxia can also affect speech and language.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy

Many people will have more than one type of CP.

You may also come across terms such as:

  • hemiplegia (1 side of the body affected)
  • diplegia (2 limbs affected)
  • monoplegia (1 limb affected)
  • quadriplegia (4 limbs affected)  

Cerebral Palsy: associated conditions

Some people may have associated conditions; while others may not. These can include:

What is the life expectancy for people with Cerebral Palsy?

In general, people with CP will have the same life expectancy as anyone else. Cerebral Palsy itself is not progressive; the injury to the brain does not change. The effects may change over time for better or worse. Read more about ageing.

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