Definition of Cerebral Palsy (2023)

Cerebral Palsy is considered a neurological disorder caused by a non-progressive brain injury or malformation that occurs while the child’s brain is under development. Cerebral Palsy primarily affects body movement and muscle coordination. Though Cerebral Palsy can be defined, having Cerebral Palsy does not define the person that has the condition.

Definition of Cerebral Palsy

While Cerebral Palsy (pronounced seh-ree-brel pawl-zee) is a blanket term commonly referred to as “CP” and described by loss or impairment of motor function, Cerebral Palsy is actually caused by brain damage. The brain damage is caused by brain injury or abnormal development of the brain that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing — before birth, during birth, or immediately after birth.

Cerebral Palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

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.

(Video) Cerebral Palsy :- Definition & Causes

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.

(Video) Cerebral palsy (CP) - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment & pathology

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.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

When a parent learns his or her child has Cerebral Palsy, they begin to define and understand the condition. Questions arise. Words such as disability, impairment, special needs, and handicap are helpful when used correctly. However, the same words – when misunderstood and misused – can be hurtful, offensive and harmful.

Is Cerebral Palsy an impairment?

Yes. Impairment is the loss or limitation of function. Impairment is a condition that limits a person to some degree.

Individuals diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy have a neurological condition which primarily causes physical impairment involving limitation or loss of function and mobility. They experience difficulty with muscle coordination, muscle control, muscle tone, reflexes, balance or posture. They may have difficulty with fine or gross motor skills. Their facial muscles may be affected.

(Video) What is Cerebral Palsy? - CP Definition, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment | Trishla Foundation

Individuals with Cerebral Palsy often have associative and co-mitigating conditions that also impose additional challenges, such as a learning impairment, seizures, and vision or hearing loss.

A person can have impairment without having a disability.

Is Cerebral Palsy a disability?

Sometimes. A disability is an impairment that substantially limits a person’s ability to perform life activities within a range comparable to someone the same age and circumstance. A disability may include impairments that limit mobility, hearing, sight, and communication.

The term “disability” is primarily used to qualify a person fairly for government benefits, access to healthcare, special education programs, workers compensation, workplace accommodations, travel accommodations, or health insurance.

All individuals with disability have impairment. However, a person can have impairment without disability. In other words, their impairment does not restrict them from performing a life activity. For example, a person who wears glasses or contact lenses to correct nearsightedness has impairment, but does not have a disability; the impairment — nearsightedness — is correctable and therefore does not restrict performance. However, a person declared legally blind is unable to perform certain functions, such as driving, and hence is said to have a disability that restricts performance.

Is Cerebral Palsy a disease?

No. Cerebral Palsy is not a disease - it is actually a term used to describe a range of conditions that typically cause physical impairment.

Is Cerebral Palsy a handicap?

A handicap is a situational barrier or obstacle that limits activity or restricts participation, often temporarily. The World Health Organization defines two types of handicaps:

Activity limitations are difficulties an individual may have in executing a task or action.

(Video) Cerebral Palsy (CP) Explained

Participation restrictions are problems an individual may have in involvement in life situations.

A handicap is apparent only when the barrier or obstacle exists. For a person who uses a wheelchair for mobility, stairs and narrow hallways may present a handicap. Ramps, elevators, and alternate hallways remove the handicap.

Today, much is being done to remove barriers and obstacles for individuals with impairment. WHO and U.S. government agencies guided by the Americans with Disabilities Act, collaborate with employers, retailers, transportation sources and private groups on a mission to identify obstacles and barriers. They also work to reduce or eliminate handicaps. These organizations promote inclusion, accessibility, and accommodation standards.

Do individuals with Cerebral Palsy have special needs?

Individuals with conditions that may require additional supports, help, or technology are generally considered to have special needs. The term “special needs” generally refers to the need to assist, support, adapt, modify or accommodate a person in order to provide barrier-free, equal access to experiences, events, buildings, information, participation and inclusion that is afforded a person without disability or impairment. Accessibility and inclusion are rights afforded to everyone – with or without disability – to participate in activities of daily living, education, transportation, employment, travel, public spaces, and housing, to name a few.

Is your child being evaluated for Cerebral Palsy?

We have resources that can help you through the diagnosis process.

Has your child been recently diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy?

Are you wondering if you are doing everything possible you can for your child?

For immediate assistance, call the MyChild™ Call Center at (800) 692-4453

Do you have more questions, or concerns?

We have resources that can help you enroll your child in early intervention services, coordinate your child’s care plan, and apply for beneficial government programs.

RESOURCES:

Definition of Cerebral Palsy

For other sources with general information on the definition of Cerebral Palsy, MyChild recommends the following websites:

(Video) Cerebral Palsy - (DETAILED) Overview

FAQs

What is the best definition of cerebral palsy? ›

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles.

What is the symptoms of cerebral palsy? ›

Movement and development problems
  • delays in reaching development milestones – for example, not sitting by 8 months or not walking by 18 months.
  • seeming too stiff or too floppy (hypotonia)
  • weak arms or legs.
  • fidgety, jerky or clumsy movements.
  • random, uncontrolled movements.
  • muscle spasms.
  • shaking hands (tremors)

How do you describe someone with cerebral palsy? ›

Individuals diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy have a neurological condition which primarily causes physical impairment involving limitation or loss of function and mobility. They experience difficulty with muscle coordination, muscle control, muscle tone, reflexes, balance or posture.

Why do people get cerebral palsy? ›

Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development of part of the brain or by damage to parts of the brain that control movement. This damage can occur before, during, or shortly after birth.

What are the 4 types of cerebral palsy? ›

There are several different types of cerebral palsy — spastic, ataxic, athetoid, hypotonic, and mixed cerebral palsy. These conditions are classified based on mobility limitations and affected body parts. Each type can vary in severity, symptoms, and treatment.

What is the treatment of cerebral palsy? ›

The primary treatment options for cerebral palsy are medication, therapy, and surgery. The goal of cerebral palsy treatment is to manage symptoms, relieve pain, and maximize independence to achieve a long, healthy life. Cerebral palsy treatment is tailored to each individual to target and treat their specific symptoms.

What is the best treatment for cerebral palsy? ›

Braces, splints or other supportive devices might be recommended for your child to help with function, such as improved walking, and stretching stiff muscles. Occupational therapy. Occupational therapists work to help your child gain independence in daily activities and routines at home and school and in the community.

What is Palsy called today? ›

Bell's palsy is also known as acute peripheral facial palsy of unknown cause. It can occur at any age. The exact cause is unknown. Experts think it's caused by swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of the face. It could be caused by a reaction that occurs after a viral infection.

What part of the brain is damaged in cerebral palsy? ›

CP affects the cerebral motor cortex. This is the part of the brain that directs muscle movement. In fact, the first part of the name, cerebral, means having to do with the brain. The second part, palsy, means weakness or problems with using the muscles.

How is cerebral palsy prevented? ›

Can cerebral palsy be prevented? Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability among children. Each year, over 10,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with CP. Sadly, there is no current method in place to fully prevent cerebral palsy from developing during pregnancy, delivery or shortly after birth.

Who is most at risk for cerebral palsy? ›

Infants born preterm (defined as before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and infants who weigh less than 5.5 pounds at birth are at greater risk of cerebral palsy than are early term (defined as 37 weeks to 38 weeks of pregnancy) and full-term (defined as 39 weeks to 40 weeks of pregnancy) infants and those who are heavier at ...

Does cerebral palsy go away? ›

There's no cure for cerebral palsy. But resources and therapies can help kids grow and develop to their greatest potential. As soon as CP is diagnosed, a child can begin therapy for movement and other areas that need help, such as learning, speech, hearing, and social and emotional development.

Is cerebral palsy a disability? ›

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability in childhood, and children with CP and their families need support. Learn more about CP and what signs to look for in young children. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture.

How long do people live with cerebral palsy? ›

How Long Can Someone Live with Cerebral Palsy? Generally, children born with cerebral palsy can expect to live between 30 and 70 years on average. Those with the longest life expectancies usually have more mobility, better medical care and adaptive equipment and greater autonomy and independence.

What is another name for cerebral palsy? ›

Different names for Cerebral Palsy that medical professionals may use include: “Froggy Legs” “Floppy Baby (Syndrome)” “Ballerina Syndrome” (walking on toes)

What is Stage 1 cerebral palsy? ›

Individuals with mild cerebral palsy are often classified as GMFCS level 1. These individuals are generally able to walk and perform everyday activities without assistance. Because they're able to maintain their independence, mild CP can go unnoticed and consequently untreated for years.

What is Level 5 cerebral palsy? ›

Background: The Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) of cerebral palsy categorizes patients by mobility. Patients at GMFCS level 5 are considered the most disabled and at high risk of hip and spine problems, yet they represent a wide spectrum of function.

Are you born with cerebral palsy? ›

Cerebral palsy is caused by a problem with the brain that happens before, during or soon after birth. The brain can either being damaged or not develop normally, although the exact cause is not always clear.

Does cerebral palsy affect speech? ›

Speech disorders are common among those with cerebral palsy. In fact, a 2012 study conducted by Swedish researchers found that speech problems affect more than half of all children with cerebral palsy. Some children with cerebral palsy have difficulty controlling the muscles in their face, throat, neck and head.

Is cerebral palsy permanent? ›

Cerebral palsy is generally caused by brain damage resulting from a birth injury. Brain damage is a permanent injury that does not improve or worsen over time. Cerebral palsy is a permanent and non-progressive disorder.

When is cerebral palsy diagnosed? ›

Cerebral palsy is typically diagnosed 18 months or more after a child is born because the signs and symptoms aren't immediately obvious. Did you know? About 70% of cases of cerebral palsy results from a birth injury.

What are the complications of cerebral palsy? ›

Complications of cerebral palsy include spasticity and contractures; feeding difficulties; drooling; communication difficulties; osteopenia; osteoporosis; fractures; pain; and functional gastrointestinal abnormalities contributing to bowel obstruction, vomiting, and constipation.

How do doctors test for cerebral palsy? ›

Specialists might suggest brain imaging tests, such as x-ray computed tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An electroencephalogram (EEG), genetic testing, or metabolic testing, or a combination of these, also might be done. CP generally is diagnosed during the first or second year after birth.

Is there a test for cerebral palsy? ›

There is no test that confirms or rules out Cerebral Palsy. In severe cases, the child may be diagnosed soon after birth, but for the majority, diagnosis can be made in the first two years. For those with milder symptoms, a diagnosis may not be rendered until the brain is fully developed at three to five years of age.

Does cerebral palsy require surgery? ›

Surgery is one of the many options available to help children with cerebral palsy improve mobility, posture and ensure healthy growth. Most doctors recommend physical therapy and medication before surgery. Surgery can correct or improve movement and alignment in the legs, ankles, feet, hips, wrists and arms.

Is palsy a disease? ›

Bell's palsy is an unexplained episode of facial muscle weakness or paralysis that usually resolves on its own and causes no complications. The cause of Bell's palsy is unknown but is thought to be caused by inflammation affecting the body's immune system. It is associated with other conditions such as diabetes.

What is Level 4 cerebral palsy? ›

A person with level 4 cerebral palsy can walk with the use of assistive devices. They're able to move independently in a wheelchair, and they need some support when sitting.

Is cerebral palsy genetic? ›

While Cerebral Palsy is not a hereditary condition, researchers have discovered that hereditary factors can predispose an individual to Cerebral Palsy. Although a specific genetic disorder does not directly cause Cerebral Palsy, genetic influences can cause small effects on many genes.

What infections cause cerebral palsy? ›

Some of the most likely infections to occur during pregnancy and those that have been proven to be connected to cerebral palsy include:
  • Cytomegalovirus. ...
  • Chickenpox. ...
  • Rubella. ...
  • Toxoplasmosis. ...
  • Herpes simplex virus. ...
  • Sexually transmitted infections.
27 Apr 2022

Can drugs cause cerebral palsy? ›

Can Drug Use Cause Cerebral Palsy? Most drugs, if used while pregnant, will affect fetal brain development, but using drugs during pregnancy will not directly cause cerebral palsy. Even though drug use may not cause a baby to develop cerebral palsy, there are many reasons to not use drugs when pregnant.

Does cerebral palsy affect thinking? ›

Does cerebral palsy affect intelligence? Not directly. Generally, cerebral palsy only affects motor skills such as movement, balance, and posture. However, intellectual disabilities can co-occur with cerebral palsy.

Does cerebral palsy get worse with age? ›

Cerebral palsy and adulthood explained

Cerebral palsy is a “non-progressive” disorder. This means that as children get older, their CP will not worsen. While an individual's cerebral palsy will not decline as they get older, there are a few things that can impact their overall health and wellness.

What is Palsy called today? ›

Bell's palsy is also known as acute peripheral facial palsy of unknown cause. It can occur at any age. The exact cause is unknown. Experts think it's caused by swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of the face. It could be caused by a reaction that occurs after a viral infection.

What part of the brain is affected by cerebral palsy? ›

CP affects the cerebral motor cortex. This is the part of the brain that directs muscle movement. In fact, the first part of the name, cerebral, means having to do with the brain. The second part, palsy, means weakness or problems with using the muscles.

Can cerebral palsy be cured? ›

There is no cure for cerebral palsy. However, there are many treatments options that may help improve your child's daily functioning. Selecting care will depend on his or her specific symptoms and needs, and needs may change over time. Early intervention can improve outcomes.

Is cerebral palsy a disability? ›

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability in childhood, and children with CP and their families need support. Learn more about CP and what signs to look for in young children. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture.

What is Level 4 cerebral palsy? ›

A person with level 4 cerebral palsy can walk with the use of assistive devices. They're able to move independently in a wheelchair, and they need some support when sitting.

Is cerebral palsy genetic? ›

While Cerebral Palsy is not a hereditary condition, researchers have discovered that hereditary factors can predispose an individual to Cerebral Palsy. Although a specific genetic disorder does not directly cause Cerebral Palsy, genetic influences can cause small effects on many genes.

Does cerebral palsy affect memory? ›

In children with CP, reduced working memory capacity is prevalent [36], and has been shown to be related to deficits in arithmetic performance [52]. A study by one of the researchers behind the present proposal described reduced working memory in children with learning difficulties related to reading [53].

What is the treatment of cerebral palsy? ›

The primary treatment options for cerebral palsy are medication, therapy, and surgery. The goal of cerebral palsy treatment is to manage symptoms, relieve pain, and maximize independence to achieve a long, healthy life. Cerebral palsy treatment is tailored to each individual to target and treat their specific symptoms.

Who is most at risk for cerebral palsy? ›

Infants born preterm (defined as before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and infants who weigh less than 5.5 pounds at birth are at greater risk of cerebral palsy than are early term (defined as 37 weeks to 38 weeks of pregnancy) and full-term (defined as 39 weeks to 40 weeks of pregnancy) infants and those who are heavier at ...

What infections cause cerebral palsy? ›

Some of the most likely infections to occur during pregnancy and those that have been proven to be connected to cerebral palsy include:
  • Cytomegalovirus. ...
  • Chickenpox. ...
  • Rubella. ...
  • Toxoplasmosis. ...
  • Herpes simplex virus. ...
  • Sexually transmitted infections.
27 Apr 2022

When does cerebral palsy occur? ›

The signs of cerebral palsy usually appear in the first few months of life, but many children are not diagnosed until age 2 or later. In general, early signs of cerebral palsy include1,2: Developmental delays. The child is slow to reach milestones such as rolling over, sitting, crawling, and walking.

Can drugs cause cerebral palsy? ›

Can Drug Use Cause Cerebral Palsy? Most drugs, if used while pregnant, will affect fetal brain development, but using drugs during pregnancy will not directly cause cerebral palsy. Even though drug use may not cause a baby to develop cerebral palsy, there are many reasons to not use drugs when pregnant.

How long do people live with cerebral palsy? ›

How Long Can Someone Live with Cerebral Palsy? Generally, children born with cerebral palsy can expect to live between 30 and 70 years on average. Those with the longest life expectancies usually have more mobility, better medical care and adaptive equipment and greater autonomy and independence.

Is cerebral palsy a brain injury? ›

Cerebral palsy (CP) is caused by abnormal development of the brain or damage to the developing brain that affects a child's ability to control his or her muscles.

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