Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
The condition known as cerebral palsy produces a variety of symptoms. Certain symptoms are specific to certain forms of CP. Some form of mobility impairment is the common to all forms of cerebral palsy.
• Stiff muscles, prone to spasms. An excess of muscle tone.
• Difficulty standing.
• Difficulty walking. Patients may walk on the toes or with a “scissored gait”—the legs crossing over one another.
• Clenched fists; hands and/or arms held at awkward angles.
• Facial grimaces. Drooling.
• Difficulty sitting upright or holding the head up.
• Difficulty with speech, language comprehension, and swallowing.
• Overly relaxed muscles. Little muscle tone. “Floppy” limbs—like a “rag doll.”
• Difficulty holding the head up.
• Difficulty with speech and swallowing.
• Involuntary, writhing movements.
• Trembling, shaking.
• Unsteady gait. Walking as though intoxicated.
• Lack of coordination.
• Difficulty perceiving depth and the location of objects.
• Difficulty with precision movements, such as fastening a necklace clasp.
Other conditions which may accompany cerebral palsy
Approximately half of CP patients experience some form of seizure disorder. Seizures range from mild to severe. Some people experience only focal (partial) seizures; the only signs of a focal seizure may be temporary confusion or muscle twitches. Tonic-clonic seizures are severe, causing the patient to lose consciousness and go into convulsions.
Although some CP patients have normal or above average IQs, the majority (two-thirds) of cerebral palsy patients have some degree of mental impairment. Mental retardation may range from mild to severe. Mental retardation is more common in spastic quadriplegia, than in other forms of the disorder. Learning disabilities, with or without mental retardation, are also common in CP.
Delayed Development and Growth:
Developmental delays are frequently the first signs that alert parents to a possible problem with their baby. CP children will be behind their peers in learning to sit up, reach for objects, crawl, and so on; some children with CP, may not reach these milestones.
CP children are also prone to be small and underweight for their age. This problem is especially common in moderate to severe spastic quadriplegia; doctors describe the lag in development asfailure to thrive.
Spinal deformities—scoliosis (curvature), kyphosis (humpback), and lordosis (saddleback) frequently occur along with cerebral palsy. These problems may require orthopedic supports or surgery, since they can seriously interfere with mobility and cause great pain.
People with CP are prone to vision problems. Many children with cerebral palsy have “cross eyes” (strabismus)—the muscles surrounding one eye may be much weaker than those controlling the other eye. A child’s brain adapts to this problem by ignoring the information from one of the out of focus eyes; this can weaken the vision in that eye. Strabismus also interferes with the ability to judge distances. Adults’ brains adapt to strabismus differently than children’s brains do; an adult with “cross eyes” experiences double vision, instead of the brain’s ignoring of one eye’s signals.
Hemianopia—which interferes with the visual range of one eye is common in children with spastic hemiparesis. Some children have homonymous hemianopia—interference in both eyes of the same area of the visual field.
Difficulty with hearing is more common among people with CP, than among the general population. CP patients may also have difficulty with processing language (difficulty understanding what is said, even if there is no difficulty hearing the words). Speech difficulties are also a frequent difficulty for CP patients.
Because of poor muscle control and/or involuntary facial grimaces many CP patients have trouble with drooling. Medication or biofeedback techniques can sometimes reduce this problem.
Difficulty with muscle control leads to incontinence in many CP patients. This may range from simply a little leakage during an activity to complete incontinence—where the patient has not control of bladder function.
Difficulty with sensation and perception:
CP patients frequently have difficulty identifying objects by touch—a condition calledstereognosia.
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