Cerebral palsy (CP) is a result of an injury to the brain or abnormal development of the brain. In many cases, the exact cause isn’t known. The damage or abnormality may occur during pregnancy or birth or within the first 2 to 3 years of life.
- Possible causes of CP during pregnancy or birth can includegenetic problems, infections or health problems in the mother or baby during pregnancy, or problems related to labor and delivery. Health problems in a newborn, such as untreated low blood sugar, can also cause brain damage that leads to CP.
- Possible causes of CP related to an early birth (premature birth) are related to the brain’s development. For example, babies born too early are at risk for bleeding in the brain.
- Possible causes of CP within the first 2 or 3 years of life are usually related to brain damage from a serious illness, injury, or lack of oxygen to the brain.
When cerebral palsy (CP) is severe, signs are often noticed at birth or shortly after birth. But some early signs of severe CP vary depending on thespecific type of CP.
Common signs of severe CP that may be noticed shortly after birth include:
- Problems sucking and swallowing.
- A weak or shrill cry.
- Unusual positions. Often the baby’s body is either very relaxed and floppy or very stiff.
Even when the condition is present at birth, the signs of cerebral palsy may not be noticed until a child is 1 to 3 years old. Doctors and parents may not see that a baby’s movements are unusual until the movements become more obvious as the baby grows.
Signs that occur over time
Some problems related to CP become more clear over time. Or they may develop as a child grows. These may include:
- Smaller muscles in the affected arms or legs. Nervous systemproblems prevent movement in the affected arms and legs. Not being active affects how the muscles grow.
- Abnormal sensations. Some people who have CP feel pain when touched lightly. Even everyday activities, such as brushing teeth, may hurt. Abnormal sensations can also make it hard to identify common objects by touch.
- Skin irritation. Drooling is common when facial and throat muscles are affected. Drooling irritates the skin, particularly around themouth, chin, and chest.
- Dental problems. Children who have trouble brushing their teethhave a greater risk of getting cavities and gum disease (gingivitis). Seizure medicines may also lead to gum disease.
- Accidents. Falls and other accidents are a risk, depending on muscle control, joint stiffness, and general physical strength. And CP-related seizures can cause injuries.