The term Cerebral Palsy originates from the word "Cerebral," meaning the two hemispheres, or sides of the brain, and "Palsy" meaning any disorder that impairs one's control over their body movements. Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a condition that is caused by damage to the brain. This damage can occur before birth, during birth, or with in the first few years of a child's life, usually as the result of a head injury. After about the age of three, if a major head injury/brain damage occurs, although the result looks like CP, it is typically labeled as Traumatic Brain Injury.
It is important to note that CP is not caused by damage to the muscles or nerves, but rather by damage or bad development to the motor area in the brain. This hinders the brain's ability to adequately control movement and posture.
As we all know, no two fingerprints are alike. The same holds true for those who have Cerebral Palsy, no two cases are alike, and it is not always a profound disability. Some have mild CP in which they may only walk just a bit different, others may have severe CP, these people may not be able to walk or talk, and may need constant assistance. Still others have variations of severity in-between. It all depends on the amount of damage to the brain one has.
Symptoms of CP include spasticity (tightness of the muscles), involuntary movements (such as uncontrollable writhing motions of the hands and drooling), disturbances in gait and mobility, and impaired speech. Also included are difficulty with fine motor skills (some examples include writing and using scissors), maintaining balance and difficulty with walking. There are also other medical problems that can develop as the result of Cerebral Palsy. Some of these problems include, but are not limited to seizures and mental impairments. It must be emphasized that not all people who have CP have all of these symptoms. Some may only have a few, and symptoms may change as one gets older or gets involved in treatment.
Cerebral Palsy is NOT CONTAGIOUS! It is not like a cold of the flu--one CAN NOT catch it! It also can not be inherited, nor is it progressive (though it may look as though it is getting worse since effected muscles aren't being used). Unfortunately, for those who have CP, it is not curable. However, it is encouraging to know that symptoms have the potential to be minimized with therapies such as Physical and Occupational Therapies. Scientists are currently working though to come up with better treatments and better ways of preventing Cerebral Palsy.
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