Statistically, more people in Atlanta and across the U.S. have cerebral palsy than any other developmental disability, including Down Syndrome, Epilepsy and Autism. The incidence of cerebral palsy is two children in every one thousand born in this country. Studies show that over 5,000 infants and toddlers and as many as 1,500 preschoolers are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year. A total of approximately 500,000 people in the United States have some degree of cerebral palsy. Data on the trends and incidence of cerebral palsy is not readily available because there is not an American system for monitoring the condition.
Cerebral Palsy is a developmental disability affecting muscle control that is caused by brain injury. The brain injurytypically occurs before, during or shortly after birth. Brain damage caused while the fetus is still in the womb can be caused by an infection the mother sustained while pregnant, alcohol or drug abuse, poor nutrition or a number of other factors. Brain damage sustained after birth causing cerebral palsy can be caused by child abuse, head injury, pre-mature birth or viral infection.
Four types of cerebral palsy
- Spastic – This most common form of cerebral palsy is characterized by stiff muscles and jerky movements
- Athetoid – Athetoid cerebral palsy makes a person have involuntary, uncontrolled movements
- Ataxic – Mainly affects balance and the person's sense of perception
- Mixed – A mixture of two or more types of cerebral palsy
Conditions that cause cerebral palsy
There are two types of conditions that can cause cerebral palsy, neurological damage and developmental malformation.
- Developmental malformation – When something interrupts the brains normal development process the brain may fail to develop adequate brain cells. This can cause the communication between brain cells to become impaired or the cells might not migrate to the appropriate areas. Causes of malformations are not often known but can include genetic disorders and defective blood supply to the brain. Developmental brain malformations in the areas of the brain that control motor functions can cause cerebral palsy.
- Neurological damage – A child with cerebral palsy who does not have a developmental malformation has suffered a brain injury. Types of brain injuries that can cause cerebral palsy include:
- Lack of oxygen before, during or after birth
- Bleeding in the brain
- Toxic injuries, or poisoning from alcohol or drugs used by the mother
- Head trauma resulting from a birth injury, fall, car accident or other cause
- Sever jaundice, very low glucose levels or other metabolic disorders
- Infections of the nervous system such as encephalitis or meningitis.