Basic information for topics, such as “What is it?” is available in the About Cerebral Palsy section. Answers to other frequently asked questions (FAQs) specific to cerebral palsy are in this section.
Because cerebral palsy is associated with preterm and low birth weight infants, good prenatal care and perinatal support may reduce risks. This includes careful management of vaccines; for example, women can get a vaccine to prevent rubella (German measles) before getting pregnant to reduce their risk for this infection that could cause cerebral palsy. Acquired cerebral palsy can sometimes be prevented by using common safety practices, such as correctly installed car seats for infants and toddlers and having children wear helmets during certain activities to prevent head injuries.1
In addition to the main symptoms, people with cerebral palsy sometimes have related conditions, which can include1:
- Intellectual and developmental disability (IDD). Up to one-half of people with cerebal palsy have IDD.
- Seizures. About half of all children with cerebral palsy have one or more seizures during their lifetime.
- Delayed growth. Children with moderate to severe cerebral palsy are often very small for their age.
- Abnormally shaped spine. The spine may curve in a way that makes sitting, standing, or walking more difficult.
- Vision problems.
- Hearing loss.
- Infections and long-term illnesses. Many people with cerebral palsy have a higher risk of heart and lung disease and pneumonia (infection of the lungs).
- Malnutrition. Because people with cerebral palsy can have trouble swallowing, sucking, or feeding, it can be hard to get the proper nutrition or eat enough to gain or maintain weight.
- Dental problems. Some people with cerebral palsy may have movement problems that prevent them from being able to take care of their teeth.
Adults with cerebral palsy can experience1:
- Contractures. Abnormal muscle and joint function in more severe cerebral palsy can lead to degeneration and tightening of muscle tissue.
- Musculoskeletal deformities. Abnormal coordination and muscle function can lead to scoliosis or hip problems.
- Early aging. Because cerebral palsy places extra stress and strain on the body, many adults begin to have age-related problems when they reach their 40s. In people with cerebral palsy, the heart, veins, arteries, and lungs must work harder throughout life and may wear out sooner.
- Arthritis. Over a person’s life, constant pressure from limbs and joints that are not properly aligned may cause painful swelling in the joints.
- Depression. People with disabilities such as cerebral palsy are three to four times as likely to have depression as people in the general population.
- Post-impairment syndrome. This syndrome can result from the muscle and bone abnormalities and arthritis related to cerebral palsy. It can cause pain, extreme tiredness, and weakness.
- Pain. Adults with cerebral palsy often have pain in their hips, knees, ankles, and back. The pain is caused by the constant stress and strain from muscle problems over a lifetime.
- Other medical conditions. Adults with cerebral palsy are more likely to have high blood pressure, bladder problems, problems swallowing, and broken bones.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2013). Cerebral palsy: Hope through research. Retrieved August 10, 2013, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-Research/Cerebral-Palsy-Hope-Through-Research