Cerebral Palsy Coexisting Conditions

Does cerebral palsy cause retardation?

Due to the brain damage caused by CP, children with CP may have difficulty processing certain spatial and auditory information. The unfortunate truth is that 30 – 50 percent of those with CP are or will be intellectually impaired.

What other conditions are common in patients with cerebral palsy?

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

Sensory Issues

Children with CP can experience difficulties with vision, hearing, and speech. Strabismus, commonly referred to as “cross eyes” and which – left untreated – can cause issues with vision, is a common condition found alongside CP. 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, is a struggle for many CP survivors and affects more than 1 in 3 individuals with the disorder.

What sensory issues does CP cause?

  • Impaired vision
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech and language disorders

Developmental Problems

CP causes delays in both physical and mental development. Limbs tend to be smaller than normal, difficulties suckling or feeding cause malnutrition issues in newborns, and symptoms like lack of coordination and muscle control result in overall decreased levels of activity.

What developmental problems does CP cause?

  • Delayed growth and development
  • Learning disabilities
  • Malnutrition
  • Inactivity
  • Incontinence

Everyday Living Problems

Sometimes just getting through the day can be a struggle when CP is your reality. Seizures may often only be managed with drugs. Dental problems put children at risk for developing gum disease and cavities at an early age, and contractures – or muscles becoming painfully stuck in abnormal positions, can occur.

What sensory issues does CP cause?

  • Seizure disorder
  • Drooling
  • Contractures
  • Dental problems
  • Pain

Additional Conditions

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 due to the poor flow of blood 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, possibly triggering CP.

Jaundice

When monitored closely, there is no need to worry too much about jaundice, as it will not typically 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 CP.

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