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About Cerebral Palsy

Nature & Prevalence

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is known as a developmental disability since it influences the way children develop. In the United States, more people have CP than any other developmental disability, including Down syndrome & epilepsy. It is the most common disorder that affects children & adults in the world. In the Philippines, there are more patients with CP than those with polio, spinal lesions and other movement disorders combined which approximate about 1-2% of the total population. Despite this, there is no government program that addresses this condition; both in treatment and prevention.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

CP describes chronic conditions affecting body movements and muscle coordination. An early non-progressive brain lesion which is not episodic, leads to a motoric deficit, disorder of tone and posture.

Causes

Includes damage to areas of the brain- before, during or shortly after birth, including genetic diseases and embryologic abnormalities, infections during pregnancy, insufficient oxygen reaching the fetus, prematurity, asphyxia (lack of oxygen) during labor and delivery, blood diseases, severe jaundice, other birth defects; there is, likewise, acquired CP (head injuries).

Effect

"Cerebral" refers to brain & "Palsy" to a disorder of movement or posture. Injury to the brain (cerebral) prevents body muscles to be used normally. CP is neither a disease nor an illness; it is neither progressive nor communicable; it is not contagious. The movement and other problems associated with CP affect what a child is able to learn and do in varying degrees through life. Depending on which areas of the brain have been damaged, these may occur: muscle tightness or spasm, involuntary movement, disturbance in gait and mobility, abnormal sensation and perception, visual, hearing or speech impairment and seizures. The body becomes twisted due to the uneven pull of the muscles resulting in joint dislocations and deformities. More severely affected suffer from epilepsy, autism and mental retardation; deafness and blindness. It is not curable but education, therapy and applied technology can help persons with CP lead productive lives. Although some children with very mild CP recover by the time they are school-aged, CP is a lifelong disability. Some patients can attend regular school, get married and find employment. However, a great majority of CP patients depend on help from others in their entire lifetime

Diagnosis

Identify disabilities early. Before a child can be appropriately diagnosed with CP, their pediatrician must first look closely at both the child and the mother's medical background to determine if there are any known causes of CP present in the history. Often, a child with CP will use the hand that is not always the most practical to them due to the fact that depending on the brain damage, one (1) side of the body will be stronger than the other side that is affected. When CP has been diagnosed, the doctors may request for a cranial ultrasound, x-rays, CT scans or MRI to determine the possible cause/s of CP. Parents may become concerned about their baby's development if the child is having problems learning to roll over, sit, crawl or walk. Parents, always, should discuss these concerns with their baby's pediatrician.

Warning Signs - Suspected CP

Your general pediatrician checks the baby's motor skills and reflexes and will be able to spot warning signs for CP. These include weakness, early hand preference, abnormal postures, irritability, feeding difficulties, delayed or impaired speech, excessive or feeble crying, slow weight gain, and very slow or failure to develop motor skills.

Prevention

Rh disease and congenital rubella syndrome used to be causes of CP. Currently; Rh disease can be prevented when an Rh-negative pregnant woman receives appropriate care. Women can be tested for immunity to rubella before pregnancy and be vaccinated if they are not immune. Babies with severe jaundice are placed under phototherapy. Head injuries among babies can be prevented when they are secured in car seats properly positioned in the backseat of the vehicle. Routine vaccination of babies (with the Hib vaccine) prevents many cases of meningitis. A woman can help reduce her risk of pre-term delivery when she seeks early (ideally starting with a pre-pregnancy visit) and regular prenatal care and avoids cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Prognosis

CP damage is permanent. Mental and thought processes are not always affected, so the patient's IQ may be normal or even above normal, but they are trapped in their bodies with their disabilities. There is no cure for CP. Damage to the brain is a permanent condition but not progressive in nature. The condition will not worsen.

Treatment

This is best accomplished by a multi-disciplinary team composed of a developmental pediatrician, a neurologist, orthopedist, ophthalmologist, ENT specialist, gastroenterologist, pulmonologist, rehab and non-physician members - physical and occupational therapist, orthotist, speech & language pathologist, social worker, psychologist, educators, parents and caregivers. The needs of the child are assessed and an individualized treatment plan will help the child reach his full potential. Philippine Cerebral Palsy [Rehabilitation Center], Inc. is the only non-stock; non-profit foundation dedicated to the treatment and alleviation of CP and related motor disorders in the Philippines.

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