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1 In Every 400 Children Has Cerebral Palsy: Learn More

Dr. Pragnya Rao

This childhood disability occurs as a result of abnormal brain development in a developing fetus.

Cerebral palsy (cerebral- related to the brain, palsy- weakness), abbreviated as ‘CP’ is a group of disorders that contribute to neurological and motor impairment in children. Its severity ranges from minor incapacitation to severe physical and mental disability. Cerebral palsy occurs as a result of abnormal brain development in a developing fetus, before birth

 Cerebral Palsy: Stats and Factsheet

  • It is said that 10% of the global population has some kind of physical disability
  • In India, the incidence is at an estimated 3 in every 1000 live births. It is more common in boys than in girls. 
  • Among physically disabled children,15-20% are affected by cerebral palsy.
  • It could be said that the incidence in developing countries like India can be even greater as many mild cases often go undiagnosed.
  • There are many types of CP- Over 70% of cases are that of Spastic Cerebral Palsy, which is usually characterized by exaggerated reflexes, abnormal muscle movements and spastic muscles. The remaining cases are of Dyskinetic (unpredictable movements), Ataxic (poor balance) and Mixed types.
  • Babies that are born prematurely are at risk of developing Spastic diplegia type of CP- in which the lower half of the body is affected and these children might need the assistance of devices such as walkers. 
  • Term babies are at a higher risk of developing Spastic quadriparesis type of CP- in which both upper and lower limb muscles are weak, hence severely restricting motility. 
  • Patients with mild CP (about 20%) can walk and moderately affected patients (50%) can be made to achieve or adapt to walking.
  • Some of the risk factors contributing to abnormal brain development include- 
    • Infections in the pregnant mother
    • Poor blood flow to the developing brain
    • Low birth weight
    • Ingestion of drugs/toxins during pregnancy
    • Preterm delivery complications
    • Damage to the head during delivery
  • Cerebral Palsy is diagnosed using the clinical history of risk factors, fetal development monitoring during pregnancy, regular screening of high-risk babies and thorough neurological examination. CP, unless severe, is usually diagnosed in the first two years of life.

Cerebral Palsy & The Necessity of Special Needs

Cerebral palsy can be a debilitating disorder and the overwhelming diagnosis often brings with it the understanding that the child affected by it will have special needs throughout life. This should not be discouraging in any way since optimum care, regular checkups and social support can essentially help a child with CP to have a fruitful, beautiful life. 

Patients with CP in early childhood often display symptoms such as vision defects, squint eyes, hearing loss, impaired development, speech and learning difficulties, epilepsy, etc. Teenagers and young adults with CP often suffer from walking/movement difficulties, joint problems, spinal deformities, emotional and behavioural challenges, etc. 

The management of CP differs based on the severity (medication/surgery), but some of the special needs that need to be catered to a child with CP include:

  • Occupational therapy to improve feeding and dressing by themselves
  • Orthopaedic support like walkers and splints to facilitate movements
  • Special education management for visual, speech, perceptual and learning disabilities
  • Social and emotional support for the child as well as caregivers
  • Rehabilitation and guidance for handicapped patients with CP

Many children diagnosed with cerebral palsy have the same life expectancy as any other child. With enough support, they often can live a great life with or without assistance, especially in mild cases where the children also tend to have above-average intelligence.

However, regular checkups with a paediatrician are important since this is a condition that requires constant and chronic care. If you or someone you know has a child with CP, make sure you are supportive and kind. This is important especially during the pandemic, where children with CP can be more vulnerable as hospital visits can increase risks of contracting COVID-19. You can access top child specialists from various hospitals with just one tap on your phone from the comfort of your home with MFine

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