Cerebral palsy (CP) is the commonest congenital disorder of childhood, which is caused by brain damage that affects motor skills, muscle tone, and movement or the ability to move in a coordinated way. CP also leads to issues in vision, hearing, and speech problems; and learning disabilities. The condition happens before or during child birth, or during the early stages of a child's life. CP is classified into three based on the damages it causes as mentioned below:
- Spastic cerebral palsy causes stiffness and movement difficulties
- Dyskinetic cerebral palsy leads to involuntary and uncontrolled movements
- Ataxic cerebral palsy causes problems with balance and depth perception
Children with CP will face problems in swallowing and will pose eye muscle imbalance, in which the eyes cannot focus on the same object. Some affected individuals show normal or near-normal intellectual capacity, while others show intellectual disabilities. Epilepsy, blindness, or deafness is also possible effects of CP.
What are the Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
The symptoms of CP vary significantly between the affected individuals. Movement and coordination problems associated with CP are as follows:
- Muscle rigidity
- Tremors or involuntary movements
- Slow, writhing movements called athetosis
- Reaching out to things with only one hand or dragging a leg while crawling
- Walking on toes, a crouched gait, or a scissors-like gait with knees crossing
- Excessive drooling
- Delays in speech development
Brain abnormalities associated with CP leads to various other neurological issues. They include:
- Difficulty in vision and hearing
- Intellectual disabilities
- Psychiatric conditions
- Urinary incontinence
What are the Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Though the exact causes of CP are unknown, it is believed to be the result of problems during pregnancy where a fetus' brain is either damaged or does not develop normally. Infections, maternal health problems, and genetic disorder are the leading cause to this.
Premature babies are more prone to CP. Low-birth weight babies and multiple births, such as twins and triplets, are also more prone to CP. Exposure to lead poisoning during childhood, bacterial meningitis, shaken baby syndrome, a car accident, mutations in genes that lead to abnormal brain development, maternal infections that affect the developing fetus, fetal stroke, traumatic head injury to an infant, or asphyxia are the other causes that lead to CP.
A few risk factors associated with CP are mentioned below:
- German measles or rubella causes serious birth defects and itcan be prevented with a vaccine
- Cytomegalovirus causes flu-like symptoms and leads to birth defects
- Herpes is passed from mother to child during pregnancy, thereby affecting the womb and placenta
- Zika virus infection causes microcephaly, which later develops into CP
- Severe or untreated jaundice
- Rh blood type incompatibility between mother and child causes brain damage
How is Cerebral Palsy Diagnosed
CP is diagnosed at an early stage in infants as pediatricians and neurological specialists watch these kids closely after birth to identify and address any developmental delays or problems with muscle function.
- Imaging brain technique like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) helps to identify any lesions or abnormalities in the child's brain.
- Electroencephalogram can be used to determine the possibility for epilepsy, which occurs in people with CP. The EEG records the electrical activity of the brain, thereby revealing an abnormal pattern when used in children with epilepsy.
How is Cerebral Palsy Treated?
There is no cure for CP, but the therapies improvise the quality of life for the affected kids. Medicines, surgery, or braces help improve the muscle function. Orthopedic surgery repairs dislocated hips and scoliosis. Severe muscle pain or stiffness is treated using medicines given through the baclofen pump implanted under the skin.
Physiotherapy exercises helps to improve the child's strength, flexibility, balance, motor development, and mobility. Speech and language therapy helps the child’s ability to speak clearly or to communicate using sign language.
Stem Cells Therapy for Cerebral Palsy
Stem cells differentiate into various other cells as per the requirement. These stem cells can be cultured in an unique way to provoke neuronal precursor cells of the brain, thereby regenerating damaged cells and helping in resuming the function of the damaged organs.
Stem cells are transplanted can help in improving the cognitive and physical skills of a child who are suffering from cerebral palsy, as these cells have the ability to migrate to the area of the damage and repair the damaged neurons. These stem cells prevent cell death in neuronal population, establish new blood vessels, and establish new neuronal maps in the brain in order to learn new functions. These repair and regenerate in damaged tissue and restoring activity in the affected area.