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What to Expect with a Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy - 1 in 345 Children in US Diagnosed with CPLearning that your child has cerebral palsy (CP) can be very distressing. If this happens to your child, know that you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, an average of 1 in 345 children in the United States are diagnosed with cerebral palsy. While your child cannot “outgrow” the symptoms of CP, children with cerebral palsy can still lead full lives. The first step to reaching this potential is understanding what a cerebral palsy diagnosis means for your child’s health and future.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

CP is not a disease. It is a group of disorders that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood. According to the CDC, cerebral palsy may be caused by abnormal brain development or some form of brain damage to the developing brain. CP is more common among boys than girls. It is also more common in Black children than in White children. Developmental issues related to cerebral palsy often first begin to appear between 18 months and two years old. An estimated 800,000 children and adults have at least one cerebral palsy symptom.

What are the early signs and symptoms of CP?

A doctor and a child’s parents are called a child’s care team. Their observations and communication will help them to identify potential signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy early. The early signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy can vary. Children reach most of their motor development milestones early in life. Most symptoms of CP may appear during infancy or preschool age. In severe cases, a child may present signs of cerebral palsy at birth. Parents are usually the first to notice issues. Their child may demonstrate slow motor development, tight or floppy muscle tone, or other signs that cause them to worry about their child’s health.

A doctor may first suspect a problem if a child fails to reach key developmental milestones. Some of the markers doctors watch for at a well-baby check-up include steady increases in muscle tone, motor skills, or speech patterns. They may also watch for issues related to posture, coordination, and hearing or vision.

Signs and symptoms of CP

Cerebral Palsy SymptomsMovement and coordination problems associated with cerebral palsy include:

  • Variations in muscle tone, such as being either too stiff or too floppy
  • Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity)
  • Stiff muscles with normal reflexes (rigidity)
  • Lack of balance and muscle coordination (ataxia)
  • Tremors or involuntary movements
  • Slow, writhing movements
  • Delays in reaching motor skills milestones, such as pushing up on arms, sitting up, or crawling
  • Favoring one side of the body, such as reaching with one hand or dragging a leg while crawling
  • Difficulty walking, such as walking on toes, a crouched gait, a scissors-like gait with knees crossing, a wide gait, or an asymmetrical gait
  • Excessive drooling or problems with swallowing
  • Difficulty with sucking or eating
  • Delays in speech development or difficulty speaking
  • Learning difficulties
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as buttoning clothes or picking up utensils
  • Seizures

What other conditions are associated with CP?

Cerebral Palsy - What Other Conditions Are There?In addition to the main symptoms, people with CP may have related conditions, including intellectual and developmental disability (IDD), seizures, delayed growth, abnormally shaped spine, vision problems, hearing loss, infections, and long-term illnesses, malnutrition, dental problems.

Intellectual and Developmental disability (IDD)

Up to one-half of people with cerebral palsy have intellectual and developmental disabilities. An IDD diagnosis requires ongoing attention from parents and doctors. Additional tests may need to be performed to diagnose IDD. Early intervention can help a person with cerebral palsy and IDD to live with the symptoms related to CP with IDD.

Seizures

About half of all children with cerebral palsy have one or more seizures during their lifetime. Seizures can range from small to severe. A child prone to seizures is at high risk for further brain damage and other injuries. Brain-imaging tests such as an EEG can determine if a child has had a seizure.

Delayed Growth

Children with moderate to severe cerebral palsy are often very small for their age. This delayed growth may be one of the first symptoms parents notice before a cerebral palsy diagnosis. If your child is diagnosed with CP, parents will need to be patient with themselves and their child since their child’s development may fall behind other children in their age group.

Abnormally-Shaped Spine

The spine may curve in a way that makes sitting, standing, or walking more difficult for a child with cerebral palsy. In addition to the pain commonly associated with CP, an abnormally shaped spine can increase a child’s pain level. It is crucial to have good communication and pain management measures in place. Following medical advice is key to improving your child’s quality of life.

Vision Problems

Vision problems may include problems focusing on objects, blurred vision, field vision loss, rapid eye movement, or trouble recognizing familiar faces. Poor eyesight may cause learning delays or frustration for your child. If you notice problems with your child’s vision, talk to your doctor. They may be able to help improve your child’s vision.

Hearing Loss

This form of hearing loss is incurable. It is often related to the nerve in the inner-ear. A child with hearing loss may struggle in social or academic settings. Working closely with their doctors and teachers will help a child avoid falling behind in school. What may appear to be IDD could actually be hearing or vision issues. That is why partnering with a child’s doctor and performing the necessary tests is so important.

Infections and Long-Term Illnesses

Many people with cerebral palsy have a higher risk of heart and lung disease and pneumonia (infection of the lungs). A parent who has a child with CP will need to be vigilant to the signs of heart and lung disease. They will also need to be wary of exposing their child to anyone who may be sick. A small germ for most people could be detrimental to a person with CP.

Malnutrition

Because people with CP can have trouble swallowing, sucking, or feeding, it can be hard to get the proper nutrition or eat enough to gain or maintain weight. To avoid this issue, it is vital that the care team (parents and doctors) work closely together to meet a child’s nutritional needs.

Dental Problems

Some people with cerebral palsy may have movement problems that prevent them from taking care of their teeth. Poor dental care can lead to other health issues, including damage to the heart. Regular dental cleaning and tooth maintenance can help protect a child with CP.

Is diagnosing CP easy to do?

Unfortunately, no. Diagnosing cerebral palsy is a complicated process because it cannot be done with a single test. An accurate diagnosis of cerebral palsy requires both the parents’ observations and a doctor’s evaluation and tests. This method of diagnosis is often a long process. In some cases, it can take years to determine that a person has cerebral palsy. Since a single method does not exist, parents and doctors must closely watch a child’s development before making a diagnosis.

Doctors are not quick to diagnose cerebral palsy. A child’s doctor will perform a series of tests and look at a child’s medical history to rule out other conditions, such as neurological disorders. Once a doctor suspects cerebral palsy, they may order one or more brain imaging tests to look for brain damage. The tests that may be used are:

  • Ultrasound – This method is used most commonly in high-risk preterm infants to take pictures of the brain. Ultrasound is not as good as other methods of taking images of the brain, but it is the safest way to look at preterm infants’ brains.
  • Computed tomography (CT scan) – CT scans use x-rays to take pictures of the brain and show damaged areas.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – MRI uses a computer, a magnetic field, and radio waves to create an image of the brain. It can show the location and type of damage in better detail than a CT scan.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) – If a person with CP has had seizures, a health care provider may order this test to rule out another disorder such as epilepsy. Small disks called electrodes are placed on the scalp to measure the brain’s activity.

Once your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, what will life be like for them?

Cerebral Palsy - How Parents Can Help Their Child Live with CPWhen a person is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a great many things will change. First, be assured that you, as a parent did nothing wrong. In most cases, cerebral palsy cannot be prevented. It is caused by preterm births and other situations that are out of a parent’s control.

Cerebral palsy cannot be cured. Throughout their life, a person with cerebral palsy will deal with many of the symptoms and complications caused by CP. In addition to the physical limitation, a person with CP may experience depression, anxiety, or delayed social development.

Parents and children must have the right support around them as they face the daily requirements of living with such a complex disability. Support groups for families and ongoing medical advice are just two things parents will need as they adapt to their child’s new life.

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month - MarchLiving with CP will never be easy, but you are not alone. There are many resources available to support you. Talk to your doctor about what tools and programs may be the best fit for your family. Here are some other timely articles you may find helpful:

Disabilities that Require Wheelchairs

Disabilities that Require Wheelchairs

Many different kinds of disabilities require the use of wheelchairs for mobility. These are referred to as mobility impairments. Disabilities may be orthopedic (relating to the bone and muscles) or they may be neuromuscular (relating to the nerves and muscles).

For example, some of the more common kinds of mobility impairments are amputation, paralysis, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injury. Many other impairments can lead an individual to use a motorized wheelchair to get around as well.

Medical conditions that require wheelchairs have a wide range of types and presentations, but finding a wheelchair that meets each person’s individual needs is very important. The right wheelchair, whether manual or electronic, sitting or standing, reclining, and tilting, will be the one that offers the best opportunities for comfort, independence, and mobility.

Spinal Cord Injuries

One of the most common Disabilities that Require Wheelchairs is spinal cord injuries. Injuries to the spinal cord lead to different types of impairment depending on the area of the spine that has been injured.

For example, quadriplegia means the individual has lost function of the body below the neck including the arms, legs, and body. Although some people retain limited use of hands or arms with quadriplegia, this is not always the case. Additionally, paraplegia refers to the loss of function in the lower extremities including the legs and lower body.

For both quadriplegia and paraplegia, motorized wheelchairs are effective for regaining mobility and independence. Additionally, standing electric wheelchairs offer many health and psychological benefits by assisting the user to move into a standing position on command.

Amputations

Amputation refers to the surgical removal of all or part of a limb or extremity such as an arm, leg, foot, hand, toe, or finger. While many different reasons may lead to needing an amputation, some of the most common causes are poor circulation, physical injury, nacreous tumor growth, infection, and frostbite. This is a common Disabilities that Require Wheelchairs.

Amputations involving toes, feet, and legs often result in mobility impairment. Every case is unique and there are many different solutions to help an individual maintain or regain mobility following an amputation. For example, artificial limbs are often effective for helping people stay mobile.

However, for many amputees, a wheelchair is essential assistive technology for maintaining mobility, independence, and functionality. Specialized wheelchairs are designed to promote comfort, movement, and health for individuals with mobility impairment and an amputation or amputations.

Spinal Cord Injuries

One of the most common Disabilities that Require Wheelchairs is spinal cord injuries. Injuries to the spinal cord lead to different types of impairment depending on the area of the spine that has been injured.

For example, quadriplegia means the individual has lost function of the body below the neck including the arms, legs, and body. Although some people retain limited use of hands or arms with quadriplegia, this is not always the case. Additionally, paraplegia refers to the loss of function in the lower extremities including the legs and lower body.

For both quadriplegia and paraplegia, motorized wheelchairs are effective for regaining mobility and independence. Additionally, standing electric wheelchairs offer many health and psychological benefits by assisting the user to move into a standing position on command.

Amputations

Amputation refers to the surgical removal of all or part of a limb or extremity such as an arm, leg, foot, hand, toe, or finger. While many different reasons may lead to needing an amputation, some of the most common causes are poor circulation, physical injury, nacreous tumor growth, infection, and frostbite. This is a common Disabilities that Require Wheelchairs.

Amputations involving toes, feet, and legs often result in mobility impairment. Every case is unique and there are many different solutions to help an individual maintain or regain mobility following an amputation. For example, artificial limbs are often effective for helping people stay mobile.

However, for many amputees, a wheelchair is essential assistive technology for maintaining mobility, independence, and functionality. Specialized wheelchairs are designed to promote comfort, movement, and health for individuals with mobility impairment and an amputation or amputations.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is one of the most common Disabilities that Require Wheelchairs, a disorders in the United States with about 800,000 people are affected. Symptoms range from mild to severe affecting the brain and motor functioning. This disorder results from brain damage occurring around childbirth.

Some symptoms of cerebral palsy may be limited muscle control, problems with reflexes, difficulty with coordination and control, and oral motor problems. For many people diagnosed with cerebral palsy, assistive motor devices like motorized wheelchairs are necessary.

Additionally, standing electric wheelchairs are especially effective for better circulation and health for those who have difficulty walking and have cerebral palsy.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis or MS is a disease in which the body’s immune system targets its own central nervous system. This means the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves are negatively affected. MS results in many different kinds of symptoms from mild to severe. This is a common Disabilities that Require Wheelchairs.

For some with MS, a wheelchair is needed for mobility. Symptoms such as muscle spasms and stiffness, fatigue, walking difficulties, dizziness, tremors, and seizures may warrant the need for a motorized wheelchair or, in some cases, a power standing chair.

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When walking and standing are not possible or very difficult with more severe multiple sclerosis, an electric wheelchair is a great tool for better independence and health.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that affects the brain–with declines in memory, thinking, and behavior. The disease is progressive and there is currently no cure, but there are treatments and interventions to help those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Some may not realize this but this is one of the Disabilities that Require Wheelchairs.

Age is the greatest risk factor. To illustrate, 1 in 14 people over age 65 have Alzheimer’s and 1 in 6 over the age of 80. It is less common, but some people get early-onset Alzheimer’s meaning they are diagnosed before age 65. Most people live 4-8 years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but may live up to 20 years.

Because the disease is progressive, the symptoms become worse from early to moderate to severe stages. Early stages are characterized by thinking and memory problems and in the late stage individuals often need full-time care and access to a wheelchair for mobility.

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Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy encompasses several different diseases that lead to loss of muscle and progressive weakening of the body. In this disorder, gene mutations cause problems with the production of proteins normally used to make healthy muscles. With that being said it’s clear that this is one of the Disabilities that Require Wheelchairs.

The most common types of muscular dystrophy occur in childhood most often with boys. Although, other types do not present until adulthood. While there is no cure for muscular dystrophy, therapy and medication can slow the progress of the disease.

The most common form of muscular dystrophy is Duchenne type. This type, for example, is characterized by difficulties with motor activities such as walking or sitting up, muscular stiffness and pain, and frequent falling.

Other types have mainly to do with which muscle groups are most affected. Oftentimes, electric wheelchairs including tilting, reclining, and standing wheelchairs are effective resources for people with muscular dystrophy depending on their specific needs.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that impacts movement. Symptoms move from subtle and mild to more and more disruptive as motor function declines.

For example, a slight hand tremor may be the first sign, but further tremors, muscle rigidity, difficulties with walking and balance, speech problems, and posture difficulties are some of the symptoms that follow. Muscles on one side of the body are often affected first. Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s and older people, usually, after age 60, are more likely to get the disorder.

If a wheelchair becomes necessary due to the mobility problems associated with the disease, it is recommended to use a tilting and reclining chair to help with circulation and blood pressure. Standing power chairs are also helpful for slowing the progression of Parkinson’s and maintaining better health outcomes.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) impacts nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and is referred to as a neurodegenerative disease. ALS involves the progressive degeneration of the motor neurons that eventually leads these neurons dying. Which clearly would mean this is one of the Disabilities that Require Wheelchairs.

When motor neurons in the brain die, the individual loses the ability to control muscle movements across the body. Therefore, the ability to voluntarily control muscles declines over the course of the disease to the point of significant or total paralysis in later stages.

There are an estimated 16,000 people with ALS. The disease does not currently have a cure, but several medical treatments prolong survival and quality of life while living with ALS.

Depending on the progression of the disease, an electric wheelchair, especially a reclining, tilting, and standing power chair, is essential for a better quality of life and health for mobility assistance.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis involves a problematic curvature of the spine that develops most often during the accelerated growth period just before puberty. In some cases, scoliosis develops as a result of other medical conditions like muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy, for example.

However, the exact cause for most scoliosis cases is unknown. It is estimated that roughly 3% of adolescents have scoliosis. While most cases of scoliosis are not debilitating, some spine deformities become progressively more severe as children and adolescents grow.

Scoliosis in severe forms can be disabling. For some with a diagnosis of scoliosis, a wheelchair is required for mobility and comfort.

Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) results from a physical blow, jolt, or bump to the head or body causing injury to the brain. TBI can also result from an object penetrating the brain, such as a bullet or knife.

There is a wide range of symptoms from milder to severe depending on the extent of the trauma to the brain itself. Mild TBI affects the brain in a more temporary manner with cognitive abilities being impacted.

Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headaches, sleep complications, and disorientation. Severe TBI can result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding and other physical damage to the brain. These injuries can result in long-term or lifelong symptoms or death.

Many people who suffer a traumatic brain injury experience the loss of the ability to walk or independently position themselves. As a result, some with debilitating symptomology following a TBI require the use of a specialized power wheelchair.

Standing, tilting, and reclining electric chairs offer superior abilities for mobility and positioning for better health and psychological outcomes.

Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a birth defect involving complications with spine and spinal cord forming improperly. Spina Bifida occurs when the neural tube, which forms early in pregnancy, fails to develop or close properly.

This condition leads to defects in the spinal cord. Fortunately, in many cases, early treatment such as surgery resolves the problem completely. However, for some complications following early treatment result in severe symptoms including walking and mobility problems.

This occurs when the nerves used to control the leg muscles are not functioning properly. Because spina bifida occurs in the spinal cord it can impact the nervous system. Therefore, muscle weakness of the legs and sometimes paralysis of the lower body can also occur. Mobility impairment as a result of spina bifida may require the use of a manual or electric wheelchair.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease involving the production and use of insulin in the body. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose from food get into your cells to give them energy. However, with type 1 diabetes, the body fails to produce insulin at all.

As a result, continuing medication through the use of insulin medication, glucose monitoring, and other medical interventions are necessary for managing the disease. Type 2 diabetes is the more common type which generally means the body has difficulties using its insulin correctly. Diabetes puts people at risk for further health problems.

For example, roughly half of individuals diagnosed with type 1 diabetes experience nerve damage, also referred to as diabetic neuropathy. In addition, many people also have foot complications related to the neuropathy which may include ulcers, poor circulation, and amputation.

Depending on the presentation, many people with diabetes take advantage of assistive mobility technology such as power wheelchairs for better health and mobility.

Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system essentially attacks itself in the body. With arthritis, the immune system primarily attacks the joints of the body such as the hands, fingers, wrists, back, knees, and feet. This is also one of the common Disabilities that Require Wheelchairs.

In some severe cases, arthritis impacts other parts of the body including organs like the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease so symptoms become worse over time.

About 1.5 million people in the U.S. have rheumatoid arthritis, but there is a significant range of symptoms from very mild to quite debilitating. For example, some people may only have minor tiredness and ache and pains, and others may be entirely dependent on a wheelchair for health and mobility.

Motorized wheelchairs are often necessary to help with mobility, comfort, and optimum health. Standing and reclining power chairs are excellent options for those who cannot stand independently or have great difficulty doing so.

Other Causes Leading to Wheelchair Use

Many other medical conditions may warrant the use of a wheelchair. For example, cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, stroke, glaucoma, hepatitis C, hypertension, lymphedema, menopause, obesity, osteoporosis, plagiocephaly, post-polio syndrome, sleep apnea, and vascular disease can all require wheelchair use.

Many other medical conditions can also lead to needing a wheelchair. Furthermore, many times people deal with more than one medical condition at the same time. Often, with multiple diagnoses the problem becomes even more complicated.

Whatever the medical condition leading to mobility impairment, electric wheelchairs are extremely valuable tools to help those with a disability. Additionally, when an individual is unable to stand on their own, a motorized standing wheelchair provides a myriad of opportunities for social, psychological, health, and professional benefit.

The Bottom Line on Wheelchair Use

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 10% of the world’s population suffers from a disability. Furthermore, of those, another 10% would benefit from access to a wheelchair. WHO also states that access to assistive mobility technology is a human right.

This is essential because access to wheelchairs, whether manual or automatic depending on the need allows people with disabilities to function in society. Wheelchairs allow users to work, care for themselves and others, and accomplish daily living tasks independently.

For those who have mobility impairments using the right chair for them makes a world of a difference. Manual, automatic, reclining, tilting, and standing wheelchairs have a huge impact on quality of life, independence, physical and psychological health for people with disabilities.

If you or a loved one are affected by the above conditions above, please contact us today to see how a Redman Standing Wheelchair can help you.

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