There’s more to cerebral palsy than motor and cognitive impairment.
The most common childhood disorder, Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a neurological condition that affects motor and cognitive function. Children with Cerebral Palsy require some form of care all their lives, and need to be empowered to manage their lifestyle choices to accommodate their disabilities. Having said that, it is important to keep in mind that CP is a non-progressive disorder, its symptoms do not worsen or aggravate with time.
But there’s more to CP than physical and cognitive impairment. CP can impact your little one’s health. So, the sooner you understand the associated conditions of cerebral palsy, the better you will be able to care for your child.
Here’s a quick guide to get you started.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
CP refers to an umbrella term that defines a group of disorders that impair a child’s posture, mobility, and proprioception (sense of balance). It is caused by abnormal brain development or irreparable damage to the immature and developing brain (during pregnancy or shortly after birth).
The severity of the symptoms and motor issues may vary from child to child, depending on how, where and when the damage/injury occurred to their developing brain. It may affect the whole body, or just be limited to one or two limbs, or one side of the body.
Parents and caregivers should note that CP does not have to stand in the way of their child fulfilling their potential. Your child may typically experience a range of physical and intellectual impairments for which they will need regimented therapy and care.
Regenerative rehabilitation at Plexus can go a long way in managing the symptoms of CP, and helping your child live their best life.
Conditions associated with cerebral palsy
Nearly all children with cerebral palsy will have at least one associated condition as well. The good news is that most of these conditions are completely manageable with the right intervention programme. Let’s take a closer look at what to expect.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 35% of all children with cerebral palsy will experience seizures.
Cerebral palsy seizures are caused by a misfiring of electrical activity in the brain. They can be mild or severe. Should a seizure last beyond 20 seconds, consult your child’s paediatrician and paediatric neurologist right away. You must also make sure the child never misses a single dose of the medication to keep seizures under control.
Damage to the immature brain can also cause vision problems in cerebral palsy. This can affect your child’s ability to read and write, and also increases their risk of accidents. Please get your child’s vision checked at regular intervals.
Dysphagia in cerebral palsy is the result of poor control over muscles in the mouth and throat. Symptoms could include regurgitation, heartburn, gagging, coughing when trying to swallow, food getting stuck in the throat, drooling, or unusual weight loss. Speech therapy can help improve the function of the swallowing muscles and control dysphagia.
Oral health issues
While CP itself doesn’t cause oral deformities, it can lead to problems like gingivitis, involuntary cheek biting, excessive gagging, dental problems, and more. According to the US National Institutes of Health the risk of dental disease is directly proportional to the severity of the neurological impairment. Help your little one maintain proper dental hygiene. Brush twice a day. Avoid sugary foods as much as possible. Regular dental health check-ups can help combat oral health issues.
A study published by the US National Institutes of Health showed that about 30% of children with cerebral palsy experienced respiratory complications. Poor control over muscles, dysphagia, excessive drooling, and the inability to cough can all lead to this. The respiratory conditions that children are at high risk for include asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and chronic lung disease.
Very often, children with cerebral palsy have trouble sleeping owing to their muscle pain and spasms, as well as conditions like drooling, respiratory distress, and epilepsy.
The child’s inability to keep themselves clean owing to mobility issues can lead to a variety of infections and skin conditions. Boils and pimples, skin ulcers, ringworm, staph infections, and bedsores are all common among children with cerebral palsy. Help your little one take extra care to maintain good hygiene.
About one in four children with cerebral palsy will exhibit some sort of behavioural and/or emotional dysregulation. The severity of these will depend on the degree of physical and intellectual disability the child has. Behavioural issues could take the form of acting out in school, fighting with peers, depression, anger issues, or withdrawing from social activities. This can also be attributed to the frustration the child feels about their own impairments compared to the normal abilities of their peers. Behaviour therapy can help identify and rectify maladaptive behaviours in your little one.
Having cerebral palsy puts a child at greater risk for a variety of associated health conditions. However, with consistent monitoring of symptoms and the best cerebral palsy care programme, these conditions can be managed to a large degree. As a parent, stay vigilant of any signs of illness or distress in your child and consult a doctor immediately. Timely intervention can greatly improve your child’s overall wellbeing.
Reach out to our team of cerebral palsy specialists at Plexus today.
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