Cerebral palsy (CP) is an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement.
Cerebral refers to the cerebrum, which is the affected area of the brain (although the disorder most likely involves connections between the cortex and other parts of the brain such as the cerebellum), and palsy refers to disorder of movement. Furthermore, “paralytic disorders” are not cerebral palsy – the condition of quadriplegia, therefore, should not be confused with spastic quadriplegia, nor tardive dyskinesia with dyskinetic cerebral palsy, nor diplegia with spastic diplegia, and so on.
Cerebral palsy’s nature as an umbrella term 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 centers 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 etiology.
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.
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