People with cerebral palsy can have a normal lifespan. They would need the support of wheelchairs, therapies, and nutrition. The following passages provide comprehensive information about life expectancy in patients with this condition.
Cerebral palsy is a term that encompasses several disorders related to motor conditions, i.e., development of movement and posture. The term ‘cerebral’ means brain, and the term ‘palsy’ refers to the loss of ability to move. It is neither a disease of the nerves (carry messages to various body parts), nor of muscles (involved in facilitating body movements).
What is Cerebral Palsy?
- It is basically a brain disorder, and the underlying cause is damage to an area of the brain referred to as cerebrum.
- The damage is believed to extend to the areas of the brain where the different parts of cortex (outer layer of cerebrum), such as motor cortex or visual cortex, are interconnected with each other and also with the central nervous system.
- The motor cortex which controls muscles movements is connected with the cerebellum. The cerebellum is responsible for coordination, sensory perception, and motor control. Damage to cerebellum also causes cerebral palsy.
- In case of children, 75 percent of them contract this disorder during the brain development stage in pregnancy which is attributed to damage in the motor centers of cerebellum, 5 percent during childbirth, and the remaining 15 to 20 percent cases are found in children of up to 3 years of age.
- Patients, especially children, find movements such as walking or feeding themselves difficult because of lack of muscle control. They may need repeated surgeries to tackle spasticity-related problems.
- Brain injuries due to accidents such as motor accidents can also cause this disorder in adults. Brain damage due to lack of oxygen in case of incidents such as drowning or suffocation can be severe.
- The average life span is calculated on the basis of mobility, the type, and its severity.
- Patients can have associated disorders such as mental impairment and problems related to vision, hearing, and perception. According to studies, patients are expected to have normal life expectancies if mobility is considered as a key factor.
- Someone with rigid or severe spasticity generally live up to 30 years of age. These patients may also display some associated disorders.
- In case of patients with moderate form of this disorder, life expectancy can be around 60 – 70 years.
- Patients with mild cerebral palsy have a normal life span. Associated disorders are not observed in these patients.
Broadly, there are 4 types: spastic, athetoid, ataxic, and mixed.
This type is characterized by stiff or permanently contracted muscles. Almost 70-80 percent of the patients suffer from the spastic type.
Spastic hemiplegia: In this case, muscle stiffness occurs on one side of the body, usually in the arm or hand. This type also leads to abnormal curvature of the spine.
Spastic diplegia: In this type, stiffness of muscles occurs in the legs, which may result in walking difficulty.
Spastic quadriplegia: This being the severest type, there is a high degree of limb stiffness, making the child unable to walk. The head may not seem well supported because of loose muscles in the neck.
10-20 percent of the people suffer from this form. The athetoid type is characterized by slow, uncontrolled, and writhing motions. Random, uncontrolled movements occur wherein the child may not able to keep control over his vocal cord and tongue. Problems related to maintaining posture are also noticed.
This is a rare type and is observed in 5-10 percent of the patients. Depth perception is affected wherein the child will lose his ability to judge where objects are placed in relation to their position. The child may have problems with activities that need precise movement, and their hands might tremble while reaching out towards an object.
Patients with this type show symptoms of the above two or more types.
Ways of Improving Longevity
- Stress should be given on improving motor skills in childhood with the aim of improving the life span of all patients.
- Physical therapy in the form of exercises to promote muscle strengthening must be encouraged in order to avoid surgeries.
- Promoting social skills and educational achievements of patients will help in boosting their morale, and instilling a sense of independence in them.
- Training in maintaining good seating posture, combined with treatment for reduction of pain due to stiffened joints, may help in avoiding postural scoliosis.
- Good health care and consuming a diet rich in fiber and low in fat can help these patients improve their life span.
There are several rehabilitation centers dedicated for treating both children and adults. Some centers also take the onus of educating children, apart from helping them cope with the disorder. The care plan in rehabs include managing the primary condition, optimizing mobility, working on communication abilities, enhancing their learning abilities, fostering self-care, and improving their overall quality of life. Research has it that the life expectancy of a patient improves if his/her condition is properly managed. Studies also emphasize that except in case of patients with severe form of the disease, others diagnosed with this condition are excepted to live the span of a normal life.
The more mobile the patient is, the greater is his/her life expectancy. Survival of patients depends on their ability to walk, roll, and self-feed. Since the condition does not affect reproductive function, people with this disorder can have children successfully.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.