Cerebral Palsy - Symptoms
Even when the condition is present at birth,
the signs of
cerebral palsy (CP) may not be noticed until a child
is 1 to 3 years old. This is due to the way children develop and
mature. Doctors and parents may not recognize that a baby's movements are
irregular until they become more pronounced as a child grows. These babies and
young children may retain
newborn reflexes and fail to reach age-appropriate
developmental milestones. Parents and caregivers usually are the first to
notice that a baby has
developmental delays that may be early signs of
When CP is severe, signs are often noticed at birth or shortly
thereafter. But some early signs of severe CP vary according to the
specific type of CP present.
of severe CP that may be noticed shortly after birth include:
- Problems sucking and swallowing.
weak or shrill cry.
- Unusual positions. Often the body is either
very relaxed and floppy or very stiff. When held, babies may arch their backs
and extend their arms and legs. These postures are different from and more
extreme than those that sometimes occur in babies with
Some problems related to CP become more evident over time
or develop as a child grows. These may include:
- Smaller muscles in affected arms or legs. Nervous
system problems prevent movement in affected arms and legs. Inactivity affects
- Abnormal sensations and perceptions. Some people
with 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, such as feeling the difference between a soft
foam ball and a hard baseball.
- Skin irritation. Drooling is common when facial and
throat muscles are affected. Drooling irritates the skin, particularly around
the mouth, chin, and chest.
- Dental problems. Children who have difficulty
brushing their teeth have increased risk of developing cavities and gum disease
(gingivitis). Seizure medicines may also contribute toward developing gum
- Accidents. Falls and other accidents are a risk,
depending on muscle control, joint stiffness, and general physical strength.
Also, CP-related seizures can cause accidental injuries.
- Infections and long-term illnesses. Adults with CP
are at a higher risk for heart and lung disease. For example, severe CP causes
problems with eating. If food is inhaled into the lungs, the risk of lung
infection (pneumonia) increases.