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- National Library of Medicine: Cerebral Palsy
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Cerebral Palsy: Hope Through Research
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Cerebral palsy is the result of damaged neurological development in the motor areas of the brain. This weakens the body’s ability to control movement, but does not directly affect intelligence. Some people with cerebral palsy are mentally retarded or have learning disabilities and some do not. The condition isn’t contagious or inherited, and the symptoms can differ slightly from person to person. While it usually affects the ability to move voluntarily, you may also suffer symptoms of involuntary movement of the hands or arms. Some people will suffer from a severe form while others will have very mild symptoms.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
According to Neurology Channel the symptoms of cerebral palsy can be simple, such as having difficulty with fine motor tasks like writing or using a scissors. Or the symptoms can be more severe, resulting in an inability to walk or maintain balance. These symptoms are the result of the same spastic muscle control but are on a continuum of the very mild to the very severe. The most common type of cerebral palsy is spastic cerebral palsy, which refers to the hallmark symptom of spasticity in the muscles. Spasticity refers to increased muscle tone that can cause the muscles to have a permanent stiffness and will lead to contractures of the arms and legs as a person grows through adulthood. The person will have difficulty controlling the muscles that are affected by the spasticity, and the muscles will appear to be "stiff" if the joint is moved passively. This stiffness in the muscles can result in an inability to walk, stand, write or eat.
Another symptom of a different form of cerebral palsy is athetoid movements. These are movements or motions of the arms, legs, neck or face that are involuntary. According to the Neurology Channel, if you have athetoid movements your legs, arms or neck will have slow, writhing movements that are not controllable. The muscles of the face and tongue can also be affected. This causes grimacing and drooling as well as trouble eating and swallowing. You may require assistance with eating to prevent starvation.
The third major symptom of cerebral palsy affects perceptual abilities and is called ataxic cerebral palsy. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, ataxia is the most rare symptom of cerebral palsy that affects balance and depth perception 1. You will have poor coordination and walk unsteadily with a wide-based gait. The ataxia also makes intentional movements such as buttoning a shirt extremely difficult and can induce an intense tremor with voluntary movement, such as reaching for an object.
Post-impairment syndrome is a combination of symptoms that affect adults with cerebral palsy. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, this combination includes fatigue, pain, arthritis and weakness that is often a part of daily life. This symptom is due to the muscle abnormalities and bony changes that happen as you age with cerebral palsy. You can use three to five times more energy each day than an able-bodied person just to complete your daily living activities. This extra expenditure of energy combined with the spasticity and extra wear on the joints is a hallmark symptom of adults who suffer from cerebral palsy.
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