Cerebral palsy is the result of a brain injury or a brain malformation. Individuals with cerebral palsy were most likely born with the condition, although some acquire it later.
It was once thought that cerebral palsy was caused by complications during the birthing process. While this does happen, it is now widely agreed that birthing complications account for only a small percentage, an estimated 10 percent, of cerebral palsy cases.
Current research suggests the majority of cerebral palsy cases result from abnormal brain development or brain injury prior to birth or during labor and delivery. Accidents, abuse, medical malpractice, negligence, infections, and injury are some known risk factors that may lead to cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy causes physical impairment
An individual with cerebral palsy will likely show signs of physical impairment. However, the type of movement dysfunction, the location and number of limbs involved, as well as the extent of impairment, will vary from one individual to another. It can affect arms, legs, and even the face; it can affect one limb, several, or all.
Cerebral palsy affects muscles and a person’s ability to control them. Muscles can contract too much, too little, or all at the same time. Limbs can be stiff and forced into painful, awkward positions. Fluctuating muscle contractions can make limbs tremble, shake, or writhe.
Balance, posture, and coordination can also be affected by cerebral palsy. Tasks such as walking, sitting, or tying shoes may be difficult for some, while others might have difficulty grasping objects.
Other complications, such as intellectual impairment, seizures, and vision or hearing impairment also commonly accompany cerebral palsy.
Every case of cerebral palsy is unique to the individual
Every case of cerebral palsy is unique to the individual. One person may have total paralysis and require constant care, while another with partial paralysis might have slight movement tremors but require little assistance. This is due in part by the type of injury and the timing of the injury to the developing brain.
Cerebral palsy is non-life-threatening
With the exception of children born with a severe case, cerebral palsy is considered to be a non-life-threatening condition. Most children with cerebral palsy are expected to live well into adulthood.
Cerebral palsy is incurable
Cerebral palsy is damage to the brain that cannot currently be fixed. Treatment and therapy help manage effects on the body.
Cerebral palsy is non-progressive
The brain lesion is the result of a one-time brain injury and will not produce further degeneration of the brain.
Cerebral palsy is permanent
The injury and damage to the brain is permanent. The brain does not “heal” as other parts of the body might. Because of this, the cerebral palsy itself will not change for better or worse during a person’s lifetime. On the other hand, associative conditions may improve or worsen over time.
Cerebral palsy is not contagious; it is not communicable
In the majority of cases, cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the developing brain. Brain damage is not spread through human contact. However, a person can intentionally or unintentionally increase the likelihood a child will develop cerebral palsy through abuse, accidents, medical malpractice, negligence, or the spread of a bacterial or viral infection.
Cerebral palsy is manageable
The impairment caused by cerebral palsy is manageable. In other words, treatment, therapy, surgery, medications and assistive technology can help maximize independence, reduce barriers, increase inclusion and thus lead to an enhanced quality-of-life.
Cerebral palsy is chronic
The effects of cerebral palsy are long-term, not temporary. An individual diagnosed with cerebral palsy will have the condition for their entire life.