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Cerebral palsy is a condition which affects the nervous, muscular, and skeletal systems of infants and young children. Individuals with the disorder often cannot control their muscle movement or reflexes. The symptoms of cerebral palsy are usually easy to identify, such as motor skill deficiency, very low muscle mass, physical disfigurements, and speech problems. Symptoms of mild cerebral palsy may be less noticeable, including tremors, occasional muscle spasms, and difficulties with writing and drawing. A child exhibiting any symptoms should be taken to a medical specialist immediately to confirm a diagnosis and design an appropriate treatment plan.
Most cases of cerebral palsy develop in unborn babies and children less than four years of age as the result of a genetic disorder, brain injury, or chronic disease. Babies with cerebral palsy are usually either very stiff or very limp, unable to control their movements and posture. Young children typically cannot develop normal motor skills, and many have difficulty eating and speaking. Other common symptoms of cerebral palsy in children include excessive drooling and spastic reflexes. Many children suffer from seizures and mental retardation.
Individuals with cerebral palsy are often disfigured due to irregular bone and muscle growth. They may have severely curved spines, unusually small skulls, or misshapen arms and legs. Individuals are often wheelchair-bound or bedridden because their physical condition prevents them from standing upright and coordinating the movements required to walk.
People with mild cerebral palsy are usually able to live independently, though they may face certain significant struggles. Some individuals have enough muscle and bone mass to walk around, though they may have to deal with unpredictable spasms. They may experience tremors in their fingers, arms, and legs. Many people with mild symptoms of cerebral palsy cannot master basic skills that require manual dexterity, such as writing, dialing a telephone, and tying shoes.
Early recognition of the symptoms of cerebral palsy is important so that a doctor can create an effective, personal treatment plan for the individual. After making a diagnosis, the doctor might prescribe medications to control muscle spasms, enroll the individual in a physical therapy program, or in the case of severe deformity, refer the patient to an orthopedic surgeon. While the condition cannot be cured, the symptoms of cerebral palsy do not typically get worse over time. With consistent medical checkups and the help of friends, family, and caregivers, an individual with cerebral palsy can often lead a very enjoyable life.