Cerebral palsy (CP) is an umbrella term for a group of disorders affecting body movement, balance, and posture. Loosely translated, cerebral palsy means “brain paralysis.” Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development or damage in one or more parts of the brain that control muscle tone and motor activity (movement). The resulting impairments first appear early in life, usually in infancy or early childhood. Infants with cerebral palsy are usually slow to reach developmental milestones such as rolling over, sitting, crawling, and walking.
Common to all individuals with cerebral palsy is difficulty controlling and coordinating muscles. This makes even very simple movements difficult.
- Cerebral palsy may involve muscle stiffness (spasticity), poor muscle tone, uncontrolled movements, and problems with posture, balance, coordination, walking, speech, swallowing, and many other functions.
- Mental retardation, seizures, breathing problems, learning disabilities, bladder and bowel control problems, skeletal deformities, eating difficulties, dental problems, digestive problems, and hearing and vision problems are often linked to cerebral palsy.
- The severity of these problems varies widely, from very mild and subtle to very profound.
- The magnitude of the problems may wax and wane over time. However, the cause of the condition, the brain abnormality responsible for the cerebral palsy, does not get worse over time. Nevertheless, the clinical picture may show signs of deterioration as the individual ages.