Cerebral Palsy Coexisting Conditions

Does Cerebral Palsy Cause Intellectual Disabilities?

Due to the brain damage that causes cerebral palsy, children may also have difficulty processing spatial and auditory information. As many as 30 to 50 percent of those with cerebral palsy will also be intellectually impaired.

Other Common Conditions in Patients With Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is often accompanied by one or more conditions relating directly to the brain damage or malformation, arising as a result of these direct conditions, or are associated in some tangential way with cerebral palsy. These various types of conditions are called primary conditions, secondary conditions, and associated conditions. These medical issues can be categorized as sensory in nature, developmental, or life-disrupting.

Sensory Issues

Children with cerebral palsy may experience difficulties with vision, hearing, and speech. Strabismus, commonly referred to as “cross eyes,” is a common vision impairment among cerebral palsy patients. Similarly, impaired hearing is an associated or secondary condition of CP which often develops as a result of lack of oxygen to the brain or jaundice. Speech, too, can be difficult for many children living with cerebral palsy: More than 1 in 3 individuals will have a speech impediment of some kind.

Sensory issues associated with cerebral palsy include:

  • Impaired vision
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech and language disorders
  • Drooling

Developmental Problems

Cerebral palsy causes delays in both physical and mental development. Children may have limbs that are smaller than normal, and experience a lack of coordination and muscle control. Difficulties suckling or feeding can cause malnutrition issues in newborns, which may exacerbate developmental issues.

Developmental problems associated with cerebral palsy include:

  • Delayed growth and development
  • Spinal deformities, including scoliosis
  • Learning disabilities
  • Malnutrition
  • Oral health problems
  • Incontinence
  • Inactivity

Chronic Pain

Cerebral palsy is linked to a number of conditions that may make daily life more difficult and painful. Chronic pain, weakness, and fatigue are common. In addition to the difficulties moving around and performing basic tasks, contractures—which are when muscles become painfully stuck in abnormal positions—can frequently occur.

Cerebral palsy is associated with the following pain-related conditions:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain (knees, ankles, hips)
  • Arthritis
  • Upper and lower back pain
  • Contractures

Other Associated Conditions

Seizures

Since brain damage can increase your risk for seizures, it is a common condition associated with cerebral palsy. Typically, seizures can only be managed with drugs.

Intracranial Hemorrhages

In some cases, children have developed cerebral palsy as a result of bleeding within the brain. Premature babies in particular are at risk because they often experience insufficient blood flow to the brain. Intracranial hemorrhage types include subdural hematoma, epidural hematoma, and subarachnoid hemorrhages.

Kernicterus

Kernicterus occurs when bilirubin levels within a newborn’s blood reach excessive levels. In most cases, this is a completely preventable condition and occurs only due to negligence on the part of medical staff. These high volumes of bilirubin can then collect in the child’s brain, leaving a yellow stain and harming the sensitive cells within the brain. This can sometimes trigger cerebral palsy.

Jaundice

When monitored closely, there is no need to worry too much about jaundice, as it will rarely lead to a birth injury. The most common symptom associated with this condition is a yellowish tint to the newborn’s skin color and eyes, due to excessive levels of bilirubin within the body. Without proper care, excessively elevated levels of jaundice can lead to kernicterus and cerebral palsy.

Treatments

Treatment for a birth disorder is largely determined by the type of injury, diagnosis, and severity of the symptoms. For instance, a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy will assume a treatment plan that might include physical therapy, assistive devices, and medications. A child with Erb’s Palsy, on the other hand, will likely require only physical therapy for treatment.

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Rae S, Editor

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Elena Amato Borrelli, Expert

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Article Citations

  1. Mayo Clinic
  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
  3. Cerebral Palsy Foundation
  4. Healthline: Living as an Adult with Cerebral Palsy