Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cerebral Palsy

image courtesy of jesicatheblog.blogspot.com 
Cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects motor skills, muscle tone, and muscle movement, is a disorder which is most commonly due to damage during prenatal, perinatal, and postnatal periods during the pregnancy process.

  • Spastic Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Palsy includes four classifications. Spastic cerebral palsy, the first subcategory of cerebral palsy, affects about seventy to eighty percent of individuals with the disorder. Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common classification of this particular disorder. This condition involves the stiffness of muscles in the body. Spastic cerebral palsy includes differentiating factors which set apart the levels of severity. The differentiating factors include the number of body extensions affected. The scissors affect refers to both legs muscles becoming tight and hard to control. Scissoring refers to the legs turning in and crossing at the knees.
  • Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, Athetoid cerebral palsy affects about ten percent of children. "Athetoid cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the cerebellum or basal ganglia. These areas of the brain are responsible for processing the signals that enable smooth, coordinated movements as well as maintaining body posture (About Cerebral Palsy)." Children with athetoid cerebral palsy also have a difficult time maintaining posture.
  • Mixed Cerebral Palsy, Mixed cerebral palsy affects about ten percent of children. This classification of cerebral palsy combines the affects of spastic cerebral palsy and athetoid cerebral palsy. This condition is due to the injuries to both the pyramidal and extra pyramidal areas of the brain (About Cerebral Palsy)."
  • Ataxic Cerebral Palsy, "Ataxic cerebral palsy is classified by low muscle tone and poor coordination of movements (About Cerebral Palsy)." Ataxic cerebral palsy is the rarest form of this disorder, affecting about five to ten percent of children with cerebral palsy. It alters the child’s depth perception and balance.

In about forty percent of all cases, the cause for cerebral palsy is unknown. The most prevalent cause of cerebral palsy is prenatal factors. Included in this category are radiation exposure, fetal anoxia, and brain growth deficiency. Perinatal factor include birth complications, cerebral hemorrhage, and trauma to brain during birth. Postnatal factors include prematurity, asphyxia, and head trauma.

Individuals with cerebral palsy will have neuromotor symptoms, such as persistence of primitive reflexes in infancy. A symptom that is connected with each disorder is spasticity and rigidity of muscles. Ataxia, which affects balance and coordination, also affects many individuals with cerebral palsy.
Those with cerebral palsy also have problems with motor development. A delay in motor development is expected in most cases. Also, in severe cases, some may develop permanent deficiency in motor control.
Individuals with cerebral palsy may also develop poor perceptual and attention problems, emotional disturbances, educational problems, and communication and speech disorders. Those with cerebral palsy can expect to have normal mental development in about fifty percent of all cases.

Therapy is considered crucial in order for those with cerebral palsy to receive a good prognosis for their future. A large part of treatment involves physical therapy, which usually begins a few weeks after birth. In physical therapy programs, two sets of exercises work towards specific goals for the cerebral palsy patients. The first goal prevents the weakening or deterioration of muscles. The second prevents muscles from becoming fixed in an uncomfortable position.
Drug therapy is also used to control spasticity. The drugs help the child’s muscles to become less tense and more easily controlled. "The three medications that are used most often are diazepam, which acts as a general relaxant of the brain and body; baclofen, which blocks signals sent from the spinal cord to contract the muscles; and dantrolene, which interferes with the process of muscle contraction (Treatment of Cerebral Palsy)."
Surgery is another option for those suffering from cerebral palsy. This option is recommended when the tensing of muscles is severe enough to cause problems with movement. The main reason for surgery is to elongate muscles. Even so, surgery is usually accompanied by a long period of rest and recovery, which usually lasts about six months.

The prognosis of cerebral palsy depends upon each individual with the disorder. Depending on the severity of each case, prognosis for higher levels of functioning with rehabilitation is considered good for most children.

Overcoming Cerebral Palsy
Many young individuals with cerebral palsy try to overcome their disability. One young boy who was diagnosed at birth with spastic cerebral palsy was limited in the amount he could do, but not in the amount he wanted to achieve. He is now in his twenties, but throughout his life he has been able to accomplish many of his goals. Aside from attending school until his graduation in 2000, he has been able to work a part-time job. He was also able to attend all of his high school dances. He has maintained a stand that he wants to be independent, and for most of his daily activities he is able to be. Like many with cerebral palsy, he has a normal functioning brain, but is handicapped by his limited motor ability.
The motivation of those with cerebral palsy is also shown by a young girl, who made a huge impact on my life. Although this child is young, she has made a huge impact on my life. She is one of the happiest kids I have had the chance to meet. She always manages to have a smile on her face. She, like the young man above, has spastic cerebral palsy, but to a more severe condition. She is wheelchair bound, but there is hope that her physical therapy will help her to overcome the use of the wheelchair. She also has very strong feelings about being independent. It would be very easy for her to let others do things for her, because many try to. This little girl will not let that happen. For example, she wants to crawl from room to room, without being carried, and she wants to feed herself, and take her drinks without the help of others.
Looking at these two amazing people, makes me realize how much drive they must have to want to be independent. They strive to do anything that can be done without the help of others by themselves. Children with cerebral palsy have a hard time doing things normal kids can , but the rewards to see them accomplish what may seem impossible is unlimited.
Mechanical aids are also very useful for individuals with cerebral palsy. These devices range from computers to walkers or wheelchairs. These devices help individuals with cerebral palsy overcome the limitations their disorder has given them.


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