Several of the causes of cerebral palsy that have been identified through research are preventable or treatable: head injury, jaundice, Rh incompatibility, and rubella (German measles). Doctors diagnose cerebral palsy by testing motor skills and reflexes, looking into medical history, and employing a variety of specialized tests. Although its symptoms may change over time, cerebral palsy by definition is not progressive, so if a patient shows increased impairment, the problem may be something other than cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy, or CP, is a group of permanent disorders associated with developmental brain injuries that occur during fetal development, birth, or shortly after birth. It is characterized by a disruption of motor skills, with symptoms such as spasticity, paralysis or seizures. Cerebral palsy has been described as something of an “umbrella term”, in that it refers to a group of different conditions. It has been suggested that no two people with Cerebral Palsy will have an identical case even if they have the same diagnosis.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is either congenital (present at birth) or acquired after birth.

Congenital cerebral palsy results from brain damage during pregnancy or around the time of birth and can be caused by a variety of conditions such as:

* Infection during pregnancy – There are a number of infections that can affect both mother and child, such as rubella, cytomegalovirus, and toxoplasmosis. These infections can cause damage to the nervous system of the developing fetus.

* Jaundice – Severe, untreated jaundice can result in brain damage.

* Rh incompatibility – A blood condition that causes the mother’s immune cells to attack the fetus, resulting in jaundice.

* Oxygen shortage – If the oxygen supply to the brain is severely low at the time of birth, the infant may suffer a type of brain damage called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.

* Stroke – Women who suffer from coagulation disorders may be at an increased risk for stroke in the fetus.

* Toxicity – Drug or alcohol use during pregnancy can result in brain damage.

* Bleeding – Prolonged bleeding in the infant’s brain shortly after birth can cause brain damage.

* Kidney and urinary tract infections – These infections in the mother can lead to brain damage within the fetus.

Acquired cerebral palsy results from brain damage in the first few months to years of life and can be caused by conditions such as:

* Brain infections, such as encephalitis and meningitis.

* Head injury from falls, automobile accidents and child abuse.


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