World Cerebral Palsy Day 2020: Importance of early diagnosis in management of this group of neurological disorders

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World Cerebral Palsy Day 2020: Importance of early diagnosis in management of this group of neurological disorders
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Cerebral palsy is not a single disease but a group of neurological disorders that show up in infancy or childhood and permanently affects muscle movements and posture, leaving one disabled for life.

Types of cerebral palsy and the areas of the brain it effects. Image courtesy Ceimile95/Wikimedia Commons

On 6 October, the world observes annual Cerebral Palsy Day. The day is organised by World Cerebral Palsy Initiative, an NGO comprising various cerebral palsy associations throughout the world. It aims to celebrate and recognise people living with cerebral palsy, their caretakers and global organisations that support them. They also focus on increasing awareness about the condition and to create social change to better support cerebral palsy patients.

Cerebral palsy is not a single disease but a group of neurological disorders that show up in infancy or childhood and permanently affects muscle movements and posture, leaving one disabled for life.

While about 17 million people in the world are affected by the disease, there is still a general lack of knowledge about the condition, including its causes and symptoms and how early diagnosis can help improve the outcomes for those with cerebral palsy.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of neurological conditions that occur due to brain damage or abnormal brain development either during pregnancy, birth or right after birth.

The condition presents with varying symptoms including vision, speech or learning problems, intellectual disability, epilepsy and partial or complete loss of voluntary muscle movement.

About one in four children with CP cannot talk, one in four cannot walk, one in four has an intellectual disability and every second child with cerebral palsy has epilepsy.

Depending on the movement disorder involved, there are four types of cerebral palsy. These include:

Spastic CP: Constitutes for about 80 percent of all cases of cerebral palsy and occurs due to damage to the motor cortex. The person would have stiff muscles and an increased muscle tone. Spastic cerebral palsy can be of three types:

  • Spastic Quadriplegia – both arms and legs and the muscles of the face, trunk and mouth are affected.
  • Spastic Diplegia – both legs are affected and arms may be affected to an extent too.
  • Spastic Hemiplegia – only one arm and leg are affected. Usually, the arm is affected more than the leg.

Dyskinetic CP: Occurs in over 6 percent of cases and is characterized by an inability to sit, walk or control body movements. The condition occurs due to damage to the basal ganglia in the brain.

Ataxic CP: Occurs in about 5 percent of the cases and is characterised by problems with balance and movements. It occurs due to damage to the cerebellum part of the brain.

Mixed type CP: A lot of patients have more than one type of cerebral palsy. The most common being spastic and dyskinetic.

Importance of screening and early diagnosis

There is no cure for cerebral palsy. Early diagnosis and screening for the condition are suggested to be important for patients. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA, the following steps can help in diagnosing cerebral palsy early on:

  • Tracking a child’s growth and development and getting a screening done if they show some unusual signs.
  • Screening to check if the child is showing any signs of intellectual or developmental delays that point to cerebral palsy.
  • Once the screening is over, tests are done to tell which type of cerebral palsy the child has.

Early signs of cerebral palsy

Here are some early signs that your child may have cerebral palsy:

In babies younger than six months of age: The baby feels floppy, their legs are stiff and crossed and when cradled, the baby has their neck overarched as if they are trying to get away from you.

strong>In babies between six and 10 months of age: Unable to bring their hands together or to their mouth, inability to roll over, only reaching out with one hand while keeping the other hand fisted.

Babies older than 10 months of age: Not crawling on all fours and instead of that hopping on knees or buttocks. Crawling but only using one hand and leg.

For more information, read our article on Cerebral palsy.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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