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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is the term given to a general group of nonspecific neuromuscular disorders that cause behavioral abnormalities. The condition was originally thought to be caused by asphyxia and trauma during pregnancy; however, through extensive research many divisions of cerebral palsy emerged. Such categories include spastic, athetoid, and ataxic cerebral palsy. Today over half a percent of the worlds population is subject to this condition of the brain. Two to four out of a thousand are affected in the industrialized United States; however, with the introduction of new preventive measures the numbers of cerebral palsy victims born each year are expected to decline. (Anee Stanford, General Information about Cerebral Palsy, page 1&2)

Brain damage before or at birth is the leading cause of cerebral palsy. Traumatic delivery due to either, a large fetal head, a small maternal pelvis, forceps compression, and/or the partial separation of the placenta may cause this condition. Other causes include oxygen deprivation due to excessive anesthesia, delayed spontaneous respiration, or severe cardiac malformations. Another major cause of cerebral palsy are infections before birth such as toxoplasmosis, measles, mumps, cytomegalic inclusion disease, syphilis, bacterial meningitis or encephalitis, and radiation or toxic chemicals including high levels of alcohol. (Britannica.com, Cerebral Palsy, page 1)

Cerebral palsy is a general name for an extensive set of disorders caused by brain damage before or shortly after the first two years of birth. The three major forms include spastic, athetoid, and ataxic cerebral palsy. It is also not uncommon for victims to suffer from mixed type cerebral palsy that has variations of two or more of the other classifications. (Grolier Encyclopedia, Cerebral Palsy, pages 1&2)

Of the individuals with cerebral palsy six out of the ten will have the spastic form. Symptoms include noticeably reduced movement caused by stiff or permanently contracted muscles. Spastic cerebral palsy results from damaged nerve fibers that carry impulses for voluntary motor control. Another form of cerebral palsy that accounts for about two in ten of all the cases is the athetoid type. Symptoms include uncontrolled movements due to damage to brain nerve fibers responsible for inhibition of muscle movements. Finally, the ataxic type of cerebral palsy, which accounts for only one in a hundred cases is associated with difficulty in coordination while walking and other limb movements. This is caused by injury to the cerebellum, the area of the brain responsible for skeletal muscle control and balance. (James Blackman, Cerebral Palsy, page 2)

Since cerebral palsy is damage to the brain it has many effects all focused at the nervous system. It is common for individuals to have a lack of muscle control. Further, common effects include a clumsy walk, a lack of balance, shaking, jerky movements, and unclear speech. Other associated effects are mental retardation, learning disabilities, seizures and problems with sight and hearing. (James Blackman, Cerebral Palsy, page 1)

Treatment for cerebral palsy includes physical therapy, prescribed drugs and surgical operations. Physical therapy has helped to teach victims to maintain their balance, dress, eat, go to the toilet, and improve their speech. Instruments such as glasses and hearing aids also help in the improvement of the victim’s lives. Prescribed drugs help to relax muscles and to control convulsions. Surgical operations are also available to cerebral palsy victims. A selective posterior rhizotomy helps to reduce the rigidity of spastic muscles. It is not uncommon for a mixture of these treatments to be used since cerebral palsy is such a vast affliction varying from patient to patient. Although the condition is physically incurable many cerebral palsy victims learn to lead almost normal lives. (James Blackman, Cerebral Palsy, page 1) (Grolier Encyclopedia, Cerebral Palsy, pages 1&2) (Britannica.com, Cerebral Palsy, page 1)


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