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Cerebral Palsy Symptoms

Parents often notice the symptoms of cerebral palsy (CP) in their child before the doctor does. They realize that their baby may not be reaching the normal stages of development at the same time as other children do. Some symptoms that a baby may have cerebral palsy are delays in:

  • Rolling over
  • Sitting up
  • Crawling
  • Beginning to walk
  • Reaching with one hand
  • Controlling the head

The child's muscles can be either too stiff or too floppy. His/her limbs may be held in unusual or awkward positions. Spastic leg muscles may force the legs to cross each other in a scissors-like position.

Some children with cerebral palsy develop a preference for the right or left hand before they are18 months old. This can indicate weakness or abnormal muscle tone on only one side, which is an early sign of cerebral palsy. The delays in patients with cerebral palsy depend upon where in the brain the injury occurs and how much damage there is. Each child's symptoms and combination of symptoms are different.

As they grow older, movement problems may become more apparent. Movements may be jerky, abrupt or writhing. They can appear to be uncontrolled or without any purpose. These children may have skeletal deformities. If the cerebral palsy exists on only one side, the limbs on this side may be shortened. Unless these children have surgery or some kind of corrective apparatus, they can grow up with pelvises that are tilted, causing scoliosis or curvature of the spine.

Cerebral Palsy Symptoms in Adults

Symptoms of cerebral palsy in adults are an extension of those symptoms that occur in children. Skeletal defects that begin in childhood can continue in the adult. Other problems that CP patients have include:

  • Joint contractures or severe stiffening of the joints: This can occur because the muscles that differ in tone and strength exert different amounts of pressure on the joints.
  • Mental retardation: Only some children and adults with cerebral palsy are mentally retarded. In general, when the overall CP is more severe, the chances for mental retardation are greater.
  • Seizures: These can appear in children or many years later. Sometimes, because of the abnormal movements of people with cerebral palsy, it can be difficult to detect seizures.
  • Speech difficulties: Speech is governed by muscles of the mouth, throat and tongue. When cerebral palsy affects these muscles, patients can have trouble speaking.
  • Swallowing problems: Although most people do not even think about swallowing, it actually is a complicated function controlled by very precise and coordinated movements by groups of muscles. These patients may have trouble eating, sucking, controlling saliva, drinking and/or breathing food or liquid into the lungs (aspiration). This problem can lead to suffocation or infections.
  • Hearing loss: This may lead to delayed speech and problems speaking.
  • Bowel and bladder control: Lack of muscle control can cause these problems.
  • Vision problems: Because of weak muscles, three-quarters of CP patients have strabismus, a condition in which one eye is turned in or out. Many of these patients are near-sighted.
  • Dental problems: Defects in tooth enamel as well as difficulty in brushing teeth lead to more cavities in CP patients.

Mild and Severe Cerebral Palsy Symptoms

The severity of CP ranges from mild to severe and depends upon the location and extent of brain damage these patients have. The extent of disability may be tempered though not cured by early intervention.

In the more severe cases, patients with cerebral palsy will require a lifetime of care, which can be expensive. If your baby is born with cerebral palsy, you might be eligible to seek compensation to pay for the care your child needs. To learn more, please contact us today.