Cerebral palsy refers to a number of neurological conditions that affect muscle control and movement. Children with cerebral palsy have difficulties in controlling their muscle movement as they grow and develop.
Cerebral palsy is usually caused by damage to the brain which may occur before, during or after birth. The main known causes of damage include infection in early pregnancy, lack of oxygen to the brain, and abnormal brain development. Some risk factors that increase the likelihood of brain damage include a complicated or premature birth, maternal age of below 20 or over 40 years, multiple births and low birth weight.
Symptoms vary greatly depending on which type of cerebral palsy a child has. Ataxia cerebral policy affects balance and may cause difficulty in walking, while children with dyskinetic cerebral palsy may be unable to even maintain an upright position. The most common type of cerebral palsy, spastic cerebral palsy, refers to a tight and unyielding muscle tone that restricts movement and impairs mobility.
In the UK, cerebral palsy affects about one in every 400 children and approximately 1,800 babies are diagnosed with the condition each year.
There is no cure for cerebral palsy but treatments such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy can help relieve symptoms and increase a child's self-esteem and independence while medication can relieve muscle stiffness and spasms.