What is cerebral palsy?

By Jason Brady

Newborn baby touching his mother hand

Cerebral Palsy is the collective term for a wide range of neurological conditions that can afflict a child in the build-up to, during or immediately after birth.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy occurs when a brain injury is sustained to the part of the baby’s brain that governs muscle control. In addition to difficulty controlling movement, cerebral palsy can also affect a child’s vision, hearing, learning and ability to communicate. Cerebral palsy can manifest as a result of developmental problems with the brain in the womb (potentially due to infection), or as a result of harm sustained before, during or immediately post birth.

The condition can vary in terms of severity, and in some cases may only affect one side of the body, or even just the legs, leaving the upper body uninhibited. The presence of associated medical conditions and difficulties can also vary greatly.

Unfortunately, the condition as a whole remains incurable, which is why the diagnosis can be devastating for families, particularly when it is the result of medical negligence and therefore preventable. In such instances, an expert medical negligence solicitor can help you secure the compensation needed to meet the challenges the condition will likely present to you and your family.

What causes cerebral palsy?

The most common cause of cerebral palsy is an injury to the brain either before, during or shortly after birth such as through a lack of oxygen or an illness. It can also occur if the mother contracted an infection during pregnancy, certain infections carry a raised risk of cerebral palsy, such as meningitis. In some instances, a baby’s brain may begin to show abnormal development whilst still in the womb making it vital for medical staff to ensure the correct procedures are carried out in order to help minimise the chance of cerebral palsy occurring.

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What are the effects of cerebral palsy?

According to the charity Scope, 150 children in the UK are diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy every month, and it affects everyone differently.

Physical disabilities mean those living with cerebral palsy may get tired more quickly, as their muscles have to work harder. Whilst resting, pain and muscle spasms can keep people awake.

According to Scope, approximately a third of people with CP have learning difficulties. The condition can cause problems with processing sensory information such as sound or light, as well as causing difficulties with letters and numbers.

Sometimes, muscles in the throat can be affected which makes talking difficult. In some cases, some people will use some form of a communication aid to help them communicate.

As people with CP get older, they are at risk of developing further conditions such as:

  • osteoarthritis (pain and stiffness in the joints)
  • increased levels of pain and discomfort
  • increase in contractures (shortening of muscles)
  • tight muscles
  • increase in spasms
  • new or increased back pain
  • digestion problems
  • incontinence

The reasons for these can be due to a lack of exercise, physical exhaustion, poor seating and posture to name a few.

It is not uncommon for a diagnosis of cerebral palsy to occur in adulthood. These cases are generally mild, having not shown any symptoms as a child.

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Long-term difficulties associated with cerebral palsy

Raising a child with cerebral palsy will involve dealing with a range of physical and emotional obstacles. Whilst therapy and medication can alleviate some of the symptoms the condition remains incurable.

Making a claim for cerebral palsy compensation can provide you with financial security and peace of mind that professional care can be afforded now and in the future.

  • Different forms of cerebral palsy can cause significant difficulties in muscle movement and usage. Stiffness and/or weakness can occur on one or both sides of the body, and this can make movement difficult, forcing the patient to place unusual amounts of strain on other parts of the body in order to compensate. In the long term, this can cause arthritis or prolonged fatigue in the joints and bones.
  • Balance and coordination problems are also not uncommon, which can restrict your child’s ability to take part in physical activities/sports, or perform complex tasks such as driving. Repeated, uncontrollable fits or seizures can further compound these difficulties.
  • There are a number of associated skeletal development conditions, such as scoliosis and issues relating to hip dislocation.
  • Day-to-day difficulties such as drooling or swallowing difficulties (dysphagia), along with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), difficulty controlling the bladder, constipation, speech impediments (dysarthria), visual difficulties, hearing loss and learning difficulties may also exist to different extents. These symptoms occur even when intelligence is not affected by the condition.


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