Cerebral Palsy Causes, Symptoms, & Types

By Dr. Rajan Shah in Centre for Neurosciences

Apr 24 , 2023 | 4 min read

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term used for a plethora of conditions triggered by severe damage to the brain suffered antenatally or right after birth. The condition is likely to affect your child’s movement, balance, coordination, muscle tone and posture. As per the best Neurologist In Mumbai, 3 out of 1000 children are born with cerebral palsy, in India. Although the rate is quite low but owing to the severity of the condition, it becomes important to educate ourselves about the disease. In this blog, we are going to discuss some vital information about cerebral palsy to raise awareness about the same.

Also Read About Pediatric Hospital in Mumbai

Types of Cerebral Palsy

Depending upon the area of the brain affected, the patients experience varied symptoms. On the basis of these symptoms, the best paediatric neurologist in Mumbai classifies cerebral palsy into the following types:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy - accounting for nearly 80 per cent of the cases of cerebral palsy, it is marked by unhealthy muscle stiffness which limits movement thereby triggering walking abnormalities.
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy - It is marked by the loss of control over the movement which means that the patient is likely to experience involuntary or abnormal movement in the limbs.
  • Hypotonic cerebral palsy - It drastically impacts muscle tone. Weak muscles trigger problems with breathing, speaking, walking and reflexes.
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy - It is quite rare as compared to the other types of cerebral palsy and is marked by loss of balance and coordination which makes it difficult to walk, grab objects, write and maintain a proper posture.
  • Mixed cerebral palsy - The patient experiences a combination of different symptoms, most likely a mix of spastic and Dyskinetic cerebral palsy.

Classification of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is classified into 5 levels on the basis of GMFCS (Gross Motor Function Classification System) which has been recognized as the universal standard by the WHO (World Health Organization). These are as under:

Level 1 cerebral palsy – The patient is able to move without any hindrance.

Level 2 cerebral palsy – The patient can walk without limitation but cannot run or jump. The use of assistive devices like leg braces or arm braces may be required during the initial period of learning how to walk.

Level 3 cerebral palsy – The patient needs some support while sitting down, however, he can stand up on his own. Assistive devices like walkers or cane are required for moving around. Some might even require a wheelchair.

Level 4 cerebral palsy– The patient can only walk with the use of an assistive device.

Level 5 cerebral palsy – The patient requires a motorized wheelchair for moving around on his own. A brace may be required to keep the head and neck in position.

Cerebral Palsy Causes

The main cause of cerebral palsy is damage to the brain, affecting the brain part that regulates body movements, coordination, and posture. Brain damage can result from:

  • Brain injury: It is the major cause of athetoid cerebral palsy.
  • Infections during pregnancy: Viral and bacterial infections cause cerebral palsy during pregnancy.
  • Asphyxia, brain infection, severe jaundice, and brain infections are the major causes of cerebral palsy after birth.
  • Gene mutations that cause abnormal brain development
  • Intracranial haemorrhage can result from accidents
  • Infections of the child in the womb, such as rubella and herpes simplex virus

Cerebral Palsy Symptoms

The various symptoms associated with cerebral palsy include:

  • The difference in muscle tone
  • Muscle stiffness and spasticity
  • Problem with reflexes
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Sudden and frequent tremors
  • Difficulty while sitting down or standing up
  • Weakness in one side of the body
  • Inability to walk properly
  • Excessive drooling
  • Inability to swallow food
  • Delayed speech development
  • Seizures
  • Neurological problems like loss of hearing, Eye-Sight Problems, increased risks of oral diseases, urinary incontinence etc.

It is pertinent to note that cerebral palsy can affect the whole body or just one side. Although the symptoms don’t worsen with age, some might become more evident as the child grows. Treatment for cerebral palsy is available at all the Best Brain Hospitals In India. So it is better to not take the symptoms lightly and opt for immediate medical help as this can help your child lead a normal life.

Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

The diagnosis of cerebral palsy involves taking a family history and physical exam, including a detailed neurological exam.

Differential diagnosis of cerebral palsy can be used to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. These diagnoses include:

  • An electroencephalogram (EEG) is done to check brain electrical activity to rule out epilepsy.
  • An MRI can be used to check brain irregularities and injuries using images.
  • A CT scan can also show brain damage
  • An ultrasound is the most common and inexpensive method of checking brain images, especially in infants.
  • Blood tests can be done to rule out other bleeding causes.

Cerebral Palsy Treatment

Cerebral palsy treatment focuses on the management of the condition since there's no cure for the disease. If you are in India, you can get help from the best cerebral palsy centres. Some of the best cerebral palsy treatments in India include:

  • Medications: These are usually muscle relaxants used to reduce spasticity and pain during muscle spasms.
  • Surgery is a cerebral palsy treatment option available in India. It is commonly done to improve mobility and correct bone abnormalities.
  • Therapy: It includes different types of therapy such as:
  • physical therapy to improve mobility, motor functions, and self-regulation
  • Speech therapy to improve speech
  • Counselling or psychotherapy for emotional and mental well-being
  • Assistive aids such as eyeglasses for vision, hearing aids, walking aids, body braces, and wheelchairs

Some of the risk factors for cerebral palsy include:

  • Premature birth- The earlier a child is born, the higher the risk
  • Low birth weight, as low as 5.5 pounds and below
  • Complications during labour and delivery
  • Maternal infections during pregnancy
  • Infant illnesses such as viral encephalitis, bacterial meningitis, and intracranial haemorrhage

Cerebral palsy complications include:

  • Contracture from muscle spasms
  • Malnutrition due to feeding inabilities
  • Mental health illnesses such as depression, social isolation, and behaviour problems
  • Heart and lung diseases
  • Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis