What is Athetoid Cerebral Palsy?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 25 February 2019
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Athetoid cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects a person's ability to control her muscle movements. Patients who suffer from this disorder can have a very hard time performing basic physical tasks. The disorder is caused by damage to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which is involved in automating muscle control. Nearly 25% of all patients who have cerebral palsy suffer from the athetoid variety.

The exact cause of athetoid cerebral palsy varies, but generally, the disease develops in infants, and oftentimes they are born with it. It can also develop due to damage during the birthing process or early childhood injuries. Genetic factors can be important, and certain thyroid disorders in pregnant women have been implicated as a possible cause. Medical mistakes have also been known to cause the disorder, and when that happens, patients are generally entitled to compensation, which may include things like help with medical bills and future cost of living.


The arms and legs are generally the most affected parts of the body in athetoid cerebral palsy. In some cases, it can also affect facial muscles, causing individuals to have difficulty controlling their expression, and severe facial ticks. Sufferers often have to concentrate with great effort when reaching for things or picking up objects. Their muscles tend to suddenly contract, or go loose without warning, and making everything work together fluidly can generally be very challenging. Even standing still or sitting down in a static position can be difficult for some sufferers.

People with athetoid cerebral palsy sometimes suffer from a disorder known as dystharia, which makes it very hard to control the muscles involved in speaking. It effects the tongue, voice box and the diaphragm. People who suffer from dystharia can also have difficulty swallowing.

Treatments of athetoid cerebral palsy can vary quite a bit depending on the age of the patient and the kinds of symptoms she is exhibiting. Doctors will often prescribe physical therapy, especially therapy related to range of motion. There are also reports that physical activities like martial arts and yoga can help minimize the severity of the disease by helping patients develop greater muscular control. For those suffering from dystharia, it is often helpful to take speech therapy, which can also be very beneficial in helping them learn to swallow more easily. Stress tends to aggravate the disorder, while most symptoms tend to disappear when patients are sleeping.



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