Cerebral palsy (CP) is an non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement. Scientific consensus still holds that CP is neither genetic nor a ‘disease’, and it is also understood that the vast majority of cases are congenital, coming at or about the time of birth, and/or are diagnosed at a very young age rather than during adolescence or adulthood.
Cerebral refers to the cerebrum, which is the affected area of the brain. The disorder may often involve connections between the cortexand other parts of the brain such as the cerebellum). The term palsy in modern parlance refers to disorder of movement, but the word root “palsy” does still technically mean “paralysis” today, even though it is not used as such within the meaning of cerebral palsy. The use of “palsy” in the term cerebral palsy makes it important to note that paralytic disorders are in fact not cerebral palsy – meaning that the condition of quadriplegia, which comes from spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury, should not be confused with spastic quadriplegia, which doesn’t; nor should tardive dyskinesia be confused with dyskinetic cerebral palsy, or the condition of (paralytic) “diplegia” with spastic diplegia. In fact, as of the early 21st century some clinicians have become so distressed at common incorrect use of these terms that they have resorted to new naming schemes rather than trying to reclaim the classic ones; one such example of this evolution is the increasing use of the term bilateral spasticity to refer to spastic diplegia. Such clinicians even argue quite often that the “new” term is technically more clinically accurate than the established term.
Cerebral palsy’s nature as a broad category means it is defined mostly via several different subtypes, especially the type featuring spasticity, and also mixtures of those subtypes.
Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the motor control centres of the developing brain and can occur during pregnancy, during childbirth or after birth up to about age three. Resulting limits in movement and posture cause activity limitation and are often accompanied by disturbances of sensation, depth perception, and other sight-based perceptual problems, communication ability; impairments can also be found in cognition, and epilepsy is found in about one-third of cases. CP, no matter what the type, is often accompanied by secondary musculoskeletal problems that arise as a result of the underlying disorder. Improvements in neonatology (specialized medical treatment of newborn babies) have helped reduce the number of babies who develop cerebral palsy and increased the survival of babies with very low birth weights (babies which are more likely to have cerebral palsy). A 2007 six-country survey found an incidence of CP of 2.12–2.45 per 1,000 live births, indicating a slight rise in recent years. A 2003 study put the average lifetime cost for people with CP in the US at $921,000 per individual, including lost income.
Of the many types and subtypes of CP, none has a known cure. Usually, medical intervention is limited to the treatment and prevention of complications arising from CP’s effects.