Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term for describing a group of chronic disorders that impair a person’s ability to control body movement and posture. These disorders result from injury to the motor areas of the brain. Cerebral palsy affects two to six infants out of every 1,000 births and is the most common disability among children in the U.S. The problem causing cerebral palsy may occur while the infant is still in the womb or after birth, and the problem is not always detectable during a child’s first year of life. Children with mild cerebral palsy may only have a minor limp or an uncoordinated walk, while patients with severe cases will require care and supervision throughout their lives. Many of the infants born with cerebral palsy also experience some degree of mental retardation and/or have seizures.
Patients with cerebral palsy can have a variety of symptoms. These symptoms usually do not worsen over time and include:
- Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as writing and using scissors
- Involuntary muscle movements
- Difficulty maintaining balance and walking
- Learning problems
- Vision defects, such as crossed eyes
- Speech difficulty
Cerebral palsy may affect one arm or leg, an arm and leg on the same side, only the legs, all four limbs, or any combination of arms and legs. Whatever the affected areas may be, the muscle types involved are often the same. Muscles that enable people to bend their arms and legs are called flexor muscles. Extensor muscles are the opposite of flexors and enable a person to straighten these limbs back out. It is the inability to control these and other muscles that define the most commonly cerebral palsy syndromes.