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What is Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy?

By Elva K.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Dyskinetic cerebral palsy, cerebral palsy of the athetoid type, is caused by the brain being damaged and is marked by muscle tone fluctuations which cause spasms. This type of cerebral palsy typically presents with slow or writhing limb movement, grimacing, drooling, speech problems, hand movement problems, and sitting and standing problems. Although the symptoms are challenging, individuals with dyskinetic cerebral palsy often have normal or higher than normal intelligence. Still, the brain damage that causes dyskinetic cerebral palsy tends to be extensive.

For example, the brain damage that causes this cerebral palsy type occurs to the basal ganglia and cerebellum. Those particular parts in the brain are responsible for controlling movement in the body. The basal ganglia and cerebellum actually process nerve signals which enable smooth and coordinated movement and body posture. When damage occurs to the basal ganglia and cerebellum, it results in individuals having random, slow, and involuntary movement.

The damage to the basal ganglia and the cerebellum occurs in various ways. For example, insufficient oxygen inside the brain in pregnancy negatively impacts a fetus' development and can lead to brain damage. Also, if there is insufficient prenatal medical care or if a mother abuses drugs or alcohol during the pregnancy, these can cause problems for the fetus' brain. Additionally, viral infection during pregnancy, head trauma, or fetal strokes which cause bleeding into the baby's brain can cause problems for the fetus that lead to dyskinetic cerebral palsy.

Another potential issue could be jaundice. Jaundice happens when bilirubin increases in the infant's bloodstream. Rh incompatibility, where the fetus and mother have conflicting blood types, can result in severe jaundice. Severe cases of jaundice can lead to dyskinetic cerebral palsy.

Diagnosis usually occurs as a result of developmental delay. For instance, if children are not reaching toward toys, not sitting, not crawling, not standing, and not walking at an appropriate age, these are indications there could be a problem. Typically, these types of cases are diagnosed no later than the age of 18 months. Observations and the results of brain imaging testing are used to help make the diagnosis.

Treatments for dyskinetic cerebral palsy could include physical therapy, speech therapy to improve communication, and therapy to improve swallowing and chewing. In many cases there will be surgery to correct limb deformity and medication to control spasms. Also, in some cases, alternative medicine interventions such as yoga or massage are done to reduce symptoms.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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