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Cerebral Palsy

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder of movement, balance, and coordination. CP is caused by problems with how your child's brain formed, or injury to the brain during pregnancy, birth, or early childhood. It is important to get help as early as possible to improve your child's quality of life.

What are the early signs of CP?

Your child's signs may be mild to severe, depending on the affected area of the brain. Signs may include:

  • Stiff muscles or balance problems
  • Movement that he cannot control
  • Scooting on his buttocks or hopping on his knees instead of crawling
  • Eating or swallowing problems
  • Behavior problems, such as no eye contact or inability to be calmed
  • Seizures

How may CP affect my child's health?

Your child may have physical or mental problems, depending on how severe his CP is. He may be at an increased risk for infections or malnutrition. He may be delayed in his milestones, such as sitting up, rolling over, crawling, or walking. He may also have muscle spasms and bone problems that cause pain. Hearing, vision, or learning problems or seizures may also occur.

How is CP diagnosed?

Your child's caregiver will examine your child, and check his eyes, growth, and development. He will also ask questions about your pregnancy and your child's birth. Your child may also receive the following:

  • Imaging studies such as a CT scan or an MRI are used to check for brain injury. Your child may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. You and your child should not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if your child has any metal in or on his body.

How is CP treated?

There is no cure for CP, but your child may benefit from early treatment. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Medicines are used to decrease muscle spasms, seizures, and movements that your child cannot control.
  • Therapy may help your child increase movement and strength, and reduce pain. This may include physical, occupational, or speech therapy, or help from bone and nerve specialists. Therapy will also provide ways for you to care for your child, and encourage him to be as social and independent as possible.
  • Surgery may be needed to relieve muscle tension, improve movement, and prevent further muscle and bone problems.

How can I help my child reach his physical and mental potential?

  • Proper nutrition will help keep your child healthy. Specialists may also help your child with swallowing or feeding problems so he can get the nutrients he needs.
  • Frequent checkups with your child's caregiver will be needed to monitor your child's growth, development, and general health. This will help find early signs or symptoms of CP. Your child will need regular physical, hearing, and eye exams.
  • Support devices such as splints, braces, or a wheelchair may be needed to help your child move around.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

  • Your child is restless or upset as if he is in pain, and he does not improve with medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek care immediately or call 911?

  • Your child is not able to eat or drink.
  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child has sudden trouble breathing.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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