Know the basics
What is cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the name of a group of conditions affecting muscles and nerves. It is not inherited but begins early in life. The three types of CP are spastic (most common), athetoid, and ataxic.
How common is cerebral palsy?
CP is a lifelong condition that does not get worse, and most children with CP have a normal life span. Some people are mildly affected and can live fairly normal lives. Others are more severely disabled. Many people have normal intelligence despite their severe physical disabilities.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?
The common signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy are abnormal movements of arms and legs, feeding problems in an infant, poor muscle tone early in life, slow development of walking and talking, abnormal body posture, muscle spasms, body stiffness, poor coordination, and crossed eyes. CP can be mild, moderate, or severe.
Children with spastic CP have muscle tightness, with stiff movements, especially in the legs, arms, and back.
Athetoid CP affects the whole body, so children have problems with balance and coordination. They have slow, uncontrolled movements and low muscle tone that makes it hard to sit straight and walk.
Symptoms of mixed CP are a combination of these two types.
Sometimes children with CP can have problems learning, hearing, or seeing, or have mental retardation.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
An early diagnosis can help prevent many symptoms and control the disease better. If you see any signs or symptoms listed above or problem with coordination and muscle function with your child, please consult with your doctor.
Know the causes
What causes cerebral palsy?
The cause is injury to parts of the brain that control the ability to use muscles. Cerebral means related to the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems using muscles. Causes of CP include:
- Injury happened during pregnancy, during birth, or early in childhood;
- Not having enough oxygen during or after birth;
- An infection (e.g., German measles) that spreads from mother to baby;
- A serious infection early in life.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for cerebral palsy?
There are many risk factors for cerebral palsy, such as:
- Having an injury or infection during pregnancy.
- The child did not get enough oxygen in the womb.
- Early childhood injury or infection.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is cerebral palsy diagnosed?
The doctor will do a physical examination and carefully check your child’s movement. The doctor may order tests to confirm CP, including CT and MRI of the brain, ultrasound, and nerve conduction tests.
How is cerebral palsy treated?
CP cannot be cured, but symptoms and disabilities can be helped with physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), psychological counseling, and surgery. PT helps children develop stronger muscles and work on skills such as walking, sitting, and balance. Special equipment, such as braces and splints, may also benefit some children. With OT, children develop fine motor skills, such as those needed for dressing, feeding, and writing. Speech and language therapy helps children with speaking skills. Children and families are aided by support, special education, and related services.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cerebral palsy?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with cerebral palsy:
- Avoid preventable risks such as German measles during pregnancy.
- Call your doctor about treatments that could help symptoms.
- Make sure special education and related services are provided for school-age children and preschoolers through school systems.
- Have a positive attitude about the person with CP.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Download version.
Porter, R. S., Kaplan, J. L., Homeier, B. P., & Albert, R. K. (2009). The Merck manual home health handbook. Whitehouse Station, NJ, Merck Research Laboratories. Page 1856.