Signs of Infant Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy in infants is a number of neurological disorders affecting movement and muscle coordination.
Brain damage can happen to an infant during pregnancy, at the time of birth or after birth.
In severe cases of infant cerebral palsy a diagnosis can be made soon after birth.
Symptoms of cerebral palsy that may show direct after birth
- Unusual position of the body, either being floppy or very stiff.
- Babies may have birth defects, such as deformities of the spine, a small jawbone or a small head.
- A very weak or high pitched cry.
The majority of cases of cerebral palsy become evident when a baby delays in basic development. Failing to reach developmental milestones like sitting up unsupported, rolling over, walking, and crawling can indicate cerebral palsy.
7 Indicative signs of cerebral palsy during the first year
Though there are some early signs of infant cerebral palsy that should alert you as a parent.
- When a baby over 2 months still has no head control when picked up.
- When a baby shakes a lot or has uncontrollable movements of arms and legs.
- There is a lack of muscle tone; baby’s body is loose and floppy.
- Baby has difficulty with sucking or swallowing.
- Baby has very stiff legs that cross at the knees when picked up.
- Baby crawls using only one half of the body and drags the other half along.
- Uses one hand while keeping the other in a fist.
Another sign that may be an indication that a child suffers form cerebral palsy is drooling. Drooling is unintentional saliva loss. Young babies drool all the time. If a child still drools at the age of 18 months this may an indicative symptom of Cerebral Palsy.
Some signs of cerebral palsy become only apparent when the child is a bit older, such as difficulty with speech. It can sometimes takes up to three years before it becomes clear that a child suffers from Cerebral Palsy.
Every child develops at its own pace, so there is no reason to worry when your child is a bit late to achieve those developmental stages.
Talk to your doctor if you think that there are problems with the way your child develops. He may refer you to a child neurologist or developmental pediatrician for an in-depth evaluation of your child.
Diagnosis of infant cerebral palsy
Naturally parents are worried when a child shows signs of cerebral palsy and the effect it will have on the child’s life. It is nearly impossible for a doctor to make a prognosis in babies younger than one year. Usually around the age of 18 months the doctor may be able to determine the type of cerebral palsy based on certain tests.
Tests that doctors use to diagnose cerebral palsy are:
- Testing of motor skills and muscle tone.
- Vision testing.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
- Computed Tomography (CT) scan may reveal underdeveloped parts of the brain or brain damage like scars or cysts.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG).
- Intelligence testing may help determine if the child is mentally impaired.
- Blood tests may help rule out other hereditary disorders.
Based on the results of these tests some predictions can be made.
What causes cerebral palsy?
There are many possible causes for cerebral palsy.
In the past, doctors attributed most cases of cerebral palsy to problems or complications during labor that caused asphyxia. Research shows that only 5 to 10 percent is due to birth complications.
The majority is caused by something that damages the baby’s brain while he or she is still in the womb. This can be because of genetic problems, infections, or fetal stroke. There are also preventable causes like when the embryo is exposed to alcohol abuse, malnutrition or mercury poisoning.
Traumatic birth injuries during a difficult delivery can also cause cerebral palsy. When a forceps delivery or vacuum extraction is not done properly it could injure the newborn's brain.
Prognosis of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is a static disorder (meaning the actual brain damage can not improve or get worse).
While some children with severe cerebral palsy may never be able to walk and need extensive, lifelong care, others with a milder form of cerebral palsy may be able to live a near-to-normal life.
Children with cerebral palsy may benefit from supportive treatments like physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, muscle surgery to correct deformities and muscle relaxing medications.