What are Cerebral palsy symptoms? Causes and treatment for the condition explained

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition caused by brain damage.

The condition is the most common motor and movement disability of childhood with an estimated one in 400 babies born in the UK have a type of cerebral palsy, according to Cerebral Palsy UK.

“Cerebral” means related to the brain while “palsy” means weakness or problems using muscles.

It is a lifelong condition that affects movement and co-ordination, caused by problems with brain development before, during and soon after birth.

Each person is impacted differently and it can be difficult to predict the signs to look out for.

Most children diagnosed with cerebral palsy reach adulthood and can live for many decades with many people going on to lead a full life.

However, the condition may limit your child’s activities and independence.

But what are the symptoms of cerebral palsy, causes and what treatments are often offered?

Here is everything you need to know…

What are the symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?

According to the NHS, symptoms can include:

  • delays in reaching development milestones – for example, not sitting by 8 months or not walking by 18 months
  • seeming too stiff or too floppy
  • weak arms or legs
  • fidgety, jerky or clumsy movements
  • random, uncontrolled movements
  • walking on tips
  • a range of other problems – such as swallowing difficulties, speaking problems, vision problems and learning disabilities

The severity of symptoms can vary significantly from person to person.

Some people only suffer with minor problems, while others may be severely disabled.

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The original problem with the brain does not get worse over time, but the condition can put a lot of strain on the body and cause problems, such as painful joints, in later life.

What are the causes of cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy can be caused by damage to a baby’s brain while they are in the womb.

In many cases, the exact cause of cerebral palsy is not clear.

However, cerebral palsy can happen if a baby’s brain does not develop normally while they are in the womb.

The condition can also develop if a baby’s brain is damaged during birth or soon after they are born.

According to the NHS, causes of cerebral palsy include:

  • bleeding in the baby’s brain or reduced blood and oxygen supply to their brain
  • an infection caught by the mother during pregnancy
  • the brain temporarily not getting enough oxygen (asphyxiation) during a difficult birth
  • meningitis
  • a serious head injury

When to get medical advice

You should speak to your health visitor of GP if you are worried about your child’s health or development.

The symptoms listed above can have a number of different causes and do not necessarily mean there is anything seriously wrong.

However, it is best to get your baby checked over if you have any concerns.

Following a visit to the GP or health visitor, your child may be referred to specialists in child development who can carry out some further checks and tests.

What are the treatments for cerebral palsy?

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for cerebral palsy.

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There are however some treatments that can help manage the condition.

The treatments can help those with the condition live as active and independent a life as possible.

The NHS lists the current treatments, they include:

  • physiotherapy – techniques such as exercise and stretching to help maintain physical ability and hopefully improve movement problems
  • speech therapy to help with speech and communication, and swallowing difficulties
  • occupational therapy – where a therapist identifies problems that you or your child have carrying out everyday tasks, and suggests ways to make these easier
  • medicine for muscle stiffness and other difficulties
  • in some cases, surgery to treat movement or growth problems

A team of healthcare professionals will work with you to come up with a treatment plan that meets you or your child’s needs.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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