What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy occurs when the cerebral cortex—the outer part of the brain—develops abnormally or is damaged. Abnormal development or damage may be caused by a variety of factors, including gene mutations, trauma, or infection. Unfortunately, cerebral palsy is still not a completely understood disorder. While it was once assumed that it was primarily caused by a lack of oxygen at birth, researchers now believe that this only represents a fraction of all cases.

Risk Factors for Congenital Cerebral Palsy

Although we still don’t have a solid grasp on the exact cause of cerebral palsy, there are known risk factors for congenital cerebral palsy, including:

  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Low birth weight and/or premature birth
  • Multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Infertility treatments
  • Congenital brain malformation
  • Fetal injury

Risk Factors for Acquired Cerebral Palsy

Acquired cerebral palsy may develop over the course of a child’s first few months or years of life. Risk factors include:

  • Brain infections, like bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis
  • Insufficient blood flow to the brain, possibly due to stroke or blood clotting problems
  • Head injury

How Does Cerebral Palsy Affect the Body?

Cerebral palsy may negatively affect a child’s muscle coordination, muscle control, balance, posture, and muscle reflex. Many children with cerebral palsy will struggle with mobility, but the severity will depend on the type of CP they have. It is not uncommon for children to develop a clawed hand, limp, or have difficulty walking.

Cerebral palsy may negatively affect a child’s muscle coordination, muscle control, balance, posture, and muscle reflex.

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Rae S, Editor

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Elena Amato Borrelli, Expert

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Article Citations

  1. CDC
  2. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/cerebral-palsy/conditioninfo/causes
  3. Cerebral Palsy Foundation