Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a term used to describe a group of disorders that affect body movement and muscle coordination. The medical definition of cerebral palsy is a “non-progressive” but not immutable disorder of movement and / or position due to an insult or anomaly of the developing brain. Development of the brain begins in early pregnancy and continues until about three years. The damage to the brain during this time can lead to cerebral palsy.
This damage interferes with messages from the brain to the body, the brain and body. The effects of cerebral palsy vary widely from one individual to another. At its mildest, cerebral palsy may lead to a slight awkwardness of movement or change of control. At its worst, CP may result in virtually no muscle control, profoundly affecting movement and speech. Depending on what areas of the brain have been damaged, one or more of the following may happen:
(1) muscle stiffness or spasms
(2) involuntary movements
(3) difficulty with “serious motor skills” such as walking or running
(4) difficulty with “fine motor skills” such as writing or doing up buttons
(5) difficulty in perception and sensation
These effects can cause problems such as difficulties associated in food, poor bladder and bowel control, respiratory problems and pressure sores. The brain damage which caused cerebral palsy may also lead to other conditions such as seizures, learning disabilities or developmental delay. It is important to remember that the limbs affected by cerebral palsy are not paralysed and can feel pain, heat, cold and pressure. It is also important to remember that the degree of physical disability experienced by a person with cerebral palsy is not an indication of their level of intelligence.
Cerebral palsy is not a progressive condition – the damage to the brain was once so you do not get worse – and people with cerebral palsy have a normal life-span. Although the condition is not progressive, the effects of the COP may change over time. Some can improve: for example, a child whose hands are affected may be able to earn enough manual control to write and to dress himself. Others may get worse: tight muscles can cause problems in the hips and spine of growing children who require orthopedic surgery, the aging process may be more difficult in the bodies with abnormal posture or who have had little exercise.
Medically it is important to remember that the Cerebral Palsy:
(1) is not contagious
(2) is NOT hereditary
(3) is NOT life-threatening