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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy (cp) is not a disease or an illness. It is the description of a physical impairment that affects movement. The movement problems vary from barely noticeable to extremely severe. There are three main types corresponding to injuries to different parts of the brain:

  • People with spastic cp find that some muscles become very stiff and weak, especially under effort. This can affect their control of movement.
  • People with athetoid cp have some loss of control of their posture, and they tend to make unwanted movements.
  • People with ataxic cp usually have problems with balance. They may also have shaky hand movements and irregular speech.

Cerebral palsy is most commonly the result of failure of a part of the brain to develop, either before birth or in early childhood. This is sometimes because of a blocked blood vessel, complications in labour, extreme prematurity or illness just after birth. Infections during pregnancy, or infancy and early childhood, e.g. meningitis or encephalitis, can also cause cp. Occasionally, it is due to an inherited disorder; in such cases genetic counselling may be helpful.

The main effect of cp is difficulty in movement but other parts of the brain can also be affected, resulting in sight, hearing, perception and learning difficulties. Some people are also affected by epilepsy. Mental abilities may not be impaired at all.

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