Symptoms and Signs of Cerebral Palsy

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Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a condition of impaired muscle coordination and/or other disabilities, usually caused by damage to the brain before or at birth. Signs and symptoms may include lack of muscle coordination, impaired or involuntary movements, abnormal reflexes, exaggerated movements, abnormal walking and posture, difficulty with speech and swallowing, drooling, eye muscle problems and body rigidity or floppiness. Other signs and symptoms that may be present are mental disorders and disabilities, abnormal touch, pain, hearing and vision and urinary incontinence. However, many cerebral palsy patients have some symptoms but can have normal mental capacity that may be difficult to appreciate because of their physical limitations that can interfere with communication.

The cause of cerebral palsy is damage to the developing brain in pregnancy (about 70-80%) and/or during birth or even in the first few years of life. Factors linked to the condition include birth defects, brain damage due to head injury, meningitis, lack of oxygen, severe jaundice, premature birth, multiple births (twins), low birth weight, problems in the mother (infections, seizures, thyroid problems, for example) and complications during labor and delivery.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.