Cerebral Palsy Essay, Research Paper
Though many people refer to Cerebral Palsy as a disease, in reality, it is a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. Since it is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, it usually occurs during fetal development; before, during or shortly following birth; or during infancy. Broken down, Cerebral Palsy stands for Cerebral- the brain, and Palsy-muscle weakness/poor control. Cerebral Palsy is not progressive, but secondary conditions can develop that can get better, stay the same, or get worse. It is not communicable, nor curable, but training and therapy can improve function.
C.P. is characterized by an inability to fully control motor function, particularly muscle control and coordination. Depending on which areas of the brain have been damaged, one or more of the following may occur: muscle tightness or spasm, involuntary movement, disturbance in gait and mobility. Also, the following can also occur: abnormal sensation and perception, impairment of sight, hearing or speech; seizures, and mental retardation. Other problems that can occur are difficulties in feeding, bladder and bowel control, problems with breathing because of postural difficulties, skin disorders because of pressure sores, and learning disabilities.
A large number of factors that can injure the developing brain may produce cerebral palsy. One important cause is an insufficient amount of oxygen reaching the fetal or newborn brain. Oxygen supply can be interrupted by premature separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus, awkward birth position of the baby, labor that is too long or too short, or interference with circulation in the umbilical cord. Premature birth, low birth weight, RH or A-B-O blood type incompatibility between mother and child, infection of the mother with German measles or other virus diseases in early pregnancy, and microorganisms that attack the infant’s central nervous system also are risk factors for cerebral palsy. The most causes of cerebral palsy are related to the developmental and childbearing processes and, since the condition is not inherited, the condition is often called congenital cerebral palsy. A less common type is acquired cerebral palsy, usually occurring before two years of age. Head injury is the most frequent cause, usually the result of motor vehicle accidents, falls, or child abuse; another cause is brain infection.
There are three main types of C.P.: spastic – stiff and difficult movement; athetoid – involuntary and uncontrolled movement; and ataxic – disturbed sense of balance and depth perception. There may be a mixture of these types for any individual. Other types do occur, although infrequently. Records show that some 500,000 children and adults in the United States manifest one or more of the symptoms of cerebral palsy. Currently about 5,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with the condition each year. In addition, some 1,200 – 1,500 preschool age children annually are recorded to have cerebral palsy.
Measures of prevention are increasingly possible today. Pregnant women are tested routinely for the Rh factor and, if Rh negative, they can be immunized within 72 hours after the birth (or after the pregnancy terminates) and thereby prevent adverse consequences of blood incompatibility in a subsequent pregnancy. If the woman has not been immunized, the consequences of blood incompatibility in the newborn can be prevented by exchange transfusion in the baby. If a newborn baby has jaundice, this can be treated by phototherapy in the hospital nursery. Other preventive programs are directed toward the prevention of prematurity; reducing exposure of pregnant women to virus and other infections; unnecessary exposure to X-rays, drugs and medications; and the control of diabetes, anemia and other nutritional deficiencies. Of great importance are optimal well being prior to conception, adequate prenatal care, and protecting infants from accidents or injury.
“Management” is a better word than “treatment.” Management consists of helping the child achieve maximum potential in growth and development. This should be started as early as possible with identification of the very young child who may have a developmental disorder. A management program can then be started promptly to include attention to the child’s movement, learning, speech, hearing, and social and emotional development. In these programs, physicians, therapists, educators, nurses, social workers, and other professionals assist the family as well as the child. Certain medications, surgery, and braces may be used to improve nerve and muscle coordination and prevent dysfunction. As individuals mature, they may require support services such as personal assistance services, continuing therapy, educational and vocational training, independent living services, counseling, transportation, recreation/leisure programs, and employment opportunities, all essential to the developing adult. People with cerebral palsy can go to school, have jobs, get married, raise families, and live in homes of their own. Most of all, people with cerebral palsy need the opportunity for independence and full inclusion in our society.