The effects of cerebral palsy vary significantly, depending on the type and severity of the condition. Effects can be as minor as a mild movement impairment or as severe as a total lack of muscle control. They also can include speech difficulties, breathing problems and sensory impairment. The area of the brain that is damaged will determine which motor skills are affected and to what extent.
Common effects of cerebral palsy include muscle spasms, inability to walk steadily, sensory impairment, involuntary movement, speech difficulties, breathing problems and learning disabilities. These effects can make routine tasks virtually impossible for a person suffering from this condition. For instance, a person who has severe cerebral palsy will often need help eating and using the restroom.
There are four classifications of cerebral palsy. The effects of cerebral palsy vary to a large extent by classification. Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form of the condition. This form of cerebral palsy is usually caused by damage to the cerebral cortex.
Those suffering from spastic cerebral palsy have spastic muscles that are stiff and restrictive. The muscles tend to over-respond when used, resulting in clumsiness. Depending on how spastic the muscles are, a person with this condition might experience anything from limited muscle impairment to a complete inability to control their his or her body.
Athetoid cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the basal ganglia. This form of cerebral palsy generally results in involuntary movements in various parts of the body. People who have athetoid cerebral palsy often have serious speech difficulties. Ataxic cerebral palsy is a rare form of the condition and is caused by damage to the cerebellum.
Individuals who have ataxic cerebral palsy typically have limited balance control. Poor muscular development and significant trouble walking are common markers for this condition. Individuals who have a combination of some of the above forms of cerebral palsy are said to have mixed cerebral palsy. This typically involves an individual experiencing the muscle difficulties of spastic cerebral palsy and the involuntary movements of athetoid cerebral palsy.
There are many suspected causes of cerebral palsy. Some of the most commonly purported causes include genetic abnormalities, premature pregnancy, exposure to drugs, small pelvic anatomy, multiple births and a damaged placenta. It is possible that a combination of these factors contribute to the development of the condition. Computed axial tomography (CAT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams can provide useful images of the brain to help determine whether an individual has cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is not a hereditary condition, nor can it be passed along to someone else. It typically is not life-threatening, but it does present enormous challenges for those inflicted. The effects of cerebral palsy can change over time in individuals, but the condition is not progressive and thus does not get progressively worse. Treatment is available, but the benefits gained from them can depend on the severity of the symptoms.