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8 Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy & Complications

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a type of disability resulting from brain injury. It occurs during the early stages of life when a child is undergoing development. Thus, it can happen in the womb, during childbirth, or in infancy. It is one of the most common disabilities in the United States; out of 1000 children, at least two have cerebral palsy.

Impaired oxygen supply to the brain during childbirth is the leading cause of CP. The diminished supply damages areas of the brain that control development and control movements. Thus, patients with cerebral palsy have abnormal walking styles, jerky movements, cognitive deficits, and physical disabilities.

There is no treatment for cerebral palsy except palliative care to diminish the impact of the disability. The parents can seek various therapies or surgeries for their child to manage symptoms and improve health. To choose the right treatment plan, parents must be aware of the symptoms they need to look for and address. Here are the eight signs and complications that parents should know...


  1. Weakness:

    Physical weakness is the most common symptom. It manifests as stiffness, inactivity, and lethargy in the child. The baby’s movements appear uncoordinated, and there is a constant loss of muscle tone. The baby tends to have no control over their head or neck muscles and cannot hold his head up unsupported. Medical practitioners often overlook physical weakness in babies after a difficult birth. However, this weakness can signify cerebral palsy resulting from medical negligence. If you had a difficult birth and your baby has cerebral palsy, you may be a victim of medical malpractice. In such a case, parents should file a cerebral palsy lawsuit to compensate for their loss.
  2. Delayed milestones:

    As the baby grows, more symptoms start to appear. The symptoms mostly appear as delayed milestones. During the first three months, the baby cannot move his limbs properly or prefers to use only half of the muscles. Later on, at five months, babies cannot sit up unsupported and often fall. Similarly, they fail to crawl at nine months or walk at 12-15 months. Moreover, the baby starts showing signs of difficulty chewing, breathing, and speaking.
  3. Gastrointestinal Problems:

    As cerebral palsy affects the ability of muscles to contract and relax properly, many gastrointestinal problems arise. For example, the involuntary contraction of esophageal muscles results in vomiting or problems with swallowing. Similarly, bowel movements are affected. Children often suffer from diarrhea or constipation due to excessive or reduced contraction of stomach muscles. Lastly, patients often experience abdominal pain and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  4. Abnormal Gestures:

    Children with cerebral palsy have unusual gestures. For example, such babies often keep their hands tightly fisted, prefer to bottom shuffle instead of crawling, and tend to drag one side of their body. Children with cerebral palsy prefer to walk on tiptoes, take slow steps, and have a scissor gait. Also, affected babies tend to favor sitting in a crouched position.
  5. Incontinence:

    Incontinence means the involuntary release of urine due to a lack of control over urinary reflex or an overactive bladder. Most children during the developing years learn to bring urinary reflex under their control. However, patients with cerebral palsy lack this ability, and around 70-80% of patients suffer from incontinence. Patients with Cerebral palsy due to problems in the central nervous system develop urinary dysfunction and struggle with incontinence.


  1. Learning Problems:

    For many individuals, problems in learning are an associated condition with cerebral palsy. These problems are not a direct result of this disease; instead, they develop over time. Learning disabilities result from the reduced strength of nerve conduction in the brain. Thus, learning everyday tasks becomes time taking and troublesome. For example, such patients face difficulty holding a pencil, catching a ball, or dancing. Similarly, solving math problems, counting on fingers, and tying shoelaces are laborious.
  2. Intellectual Disability:

    Another complication such patients face is a lack of intellect due to reduced cognitive activity. Lack of intellect refers to both intellectual and adaptive disabilities. An intellectual disability indicates lower IQ, lack of decision-making ability, and low analytical skills in individuals with cerebral palsy. On the other hand, adaptive disabilities relate to an inability to perform everyday tasks such as communication, maintaining hygiene, and working in a community. Patients are unable to follow instructions, show empathy, or make friendships. Similarly, performing job-related tasks, managing finances, dressing up, and preparing a meal is difficult for such individuals, resulting in an inability to live independently.
  3. Problems with Hearing:

    According to a recent study, 5% of children with cerebral palsy have severe hearing loss, and 10-20% are hard of hearing due to some medical complication. Hearing complications associated with cerebral palsy is of two main types: sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is more common as it occurs due to damage to the nerves or nerve receptors of the ear. The nerve damage prevents sound conduction to the brain resulting in the patient's inability to respond to sounds. As the child cannot correctly hear, his social behavior and speech also suffer.


Having a child with cerebral palsy can be worrisome and concerning for parents, but they do not have to panic. Patients with cerebral palsy can live a fulfilling life with proper care and help. Thus, parents should closely monitor their child’s growth and take the necessary steps to boost learning and movement in their child.

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