Cerebral palsy : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Spastic paralysis, Paralysis – spastic, Spastic hemiplegia, Spastic diplegia, Spastic quadriplegia

Definition

Cerebral palsy is condition, sometimes thought of as a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking.

Ther are several different types of cerebral palsy, including spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, hypotonic, and mixed.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Cerebral palsy is caused by injuries or abnormalities of the brain. Most of these problems occur as the baby grows in the womb, but they can happen at any time during the first 2 years of life, while the baby’s brain is still developing.

In some people with cerebral palsy, parts of the brain are injured due to low levels of oxygen (hypoxia) in the area. It is not known why this occurs.

Premature infants have a slightly higher risk of developing cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy may also occur during early infancy as a result of several conditions, including:

  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Brain infections (encephalitis, meningitis, herpes simplex infections)
  • Head injury
  • Infections in the mother during pregnancy (rubella)
  • Severe jaundice

In some cases the cause of cerebral palsy is never determined.

Pictures & Images

Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system

The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system includes all peripheral nerves.


Review Date : 9/16/2009
Reviewed By : Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital; and Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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