Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive, permanent neurological disorder caused due to developmental defects in the brain during infancy or early childhood. The following article touches upon the various causes that lead to this medical condition.
Cerebral palsy affects body movement and muscle coordination due to the damage to the motor and muscle control centers of the brain. It can affect the unborn baby (fetal stage) during childbirth, or children in infancy, mostly up to the age of 3 years. The condition does not deteriorate with advancing age, and although its treatment relies more on therapy to improve kinesthetic skills and coordination, it cannot be completely cured. It refers to a group of neurological disorders; however, its exact causes are still not known.
In the Unborn
Children born with this condition have a congenital malformation of the brain, which means that this dysfunction already exists before birth, and is not caused during the labor period. There are many instances, where it is difficult to detect this condition before birth, even with new, sophisticated technology.
The brain development of the fetus can be affected when the expectant mother is exposed to certain chemicals or infections. Addiction to alcohol, drugs and smoking have been linked to blood vessel complications, that have a direct bearing on the central nervous system. Malnutrition in the mother affects the fetus’s brain development, resulting in palsy. Severe physical and mental trauma also plays a role in retarding the unborn child’s brain development. Infections such as rubella, toxoplasmosis, HIV, etc., may also be risk factors for cerebral palsy.
The occurrence of this condition during childbirth is a highly controversial matter. According to studies conducted by Sigmund Freud (an Austrian neurologist, who is also known as the father of modern psychoanalysis), brain damage occurs before the child’s birth and not during the birthing process. However, there are many doctors who believe that the process of childbirth can also have serious repercussions on the infant’s brain. It is a known fact that labor is traumatic for the infant, and injuries occurring during birth can cause cerebral palsy. Improved obstetric care has helped reduce birth injury, but certain complications may occur. Asphyxia is known to be a cause of this condition during labor, but the chances are quite rare.
In Infants and Children
Premature and low-weight babies are at a higher risk of developing this condition. Sometimes, intraventricular hemorrhages may occur in premature babies. In this condition, the internal bleeding and damage to the brain tissue that controls motor function and coordination could lead to cerebral palsy. Injuries to the brain are also likely to affect a child’s brain. Asphyxia caused due to choking, drowning, poisoning, or an allergic reaction can damage the brain in many ways. A blow to the head, either in an accident or during any activity can also cause the condition. Bacterial infections, such as meningitis or encephalitis can also lead to brain damage.
It results in motor impairment, where the child is not able to coordinate muscle movement to carry out simple everyday tasks. There is no cure for this condition; however, life can be improved effectively by using regular physical and occupational therapy.