Understanding Cerebral Palsy: Five Questions Answered

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is the name given to a number of neurological conditions that affect a child’s muscle control, movement and co-ordination. There are three types of cerebral palsy:
· Spastic, where children have muscle stiffness and weakness

· Dyskinetic, where children make involuntary movements due to a lack of muscle control

· Ataxic, where children find balance and co-ordination difficult.

It is common for people with cerebral palsy to have a combination of these types.

Cerebral Palsy

What causes cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a condition that is usually sustained during pregnancy, birth, or soon afterwards. The reasons are often complex and cannot necessarily be pinned down to one single cause. Common causes include:
· Infection during pregnancy

· Oxygen deprivation

· Abnormal brain development

· Neonatal stroke

· Genetic link (although this is rare)

How common is cerebral palsy?

According to NHS figures, around one in every 400 children in the UK is affected by cerebral palsy, with approximately 1,800 babies being diagnosed with the condition each year.

How would my child be affected?

The symptoms of cerebral palsy can vary greatly from child to child and will usually appear during the first three years. As cerebral palsy affects the muscles, some children may be slow at achieving development, or have problems with muscle tone and posture. Others may struggle with balance and co-ordination.
Many also experience related conditions or problems such as epilepsy, learning difficulties, visual or hearing impairment, a curved spine and drooling.
Some children may just have one or two of these symptoms, whilst others will be profoundly disabled and require lifelong care. There is no cure for cerebral palsy but there are a range of treatments which can relieve symptoms and help your child to live a happy and independent life, such as physiotherapy or occupational therapy, as well as medication. Cerebral palsy is not a progressive condition, so it will not get worse over time, although the strain placed on the body can cause problems later in life. For further information on the symptoms and treatment of cerebral palsy, visit the Scope website.

What if my child’s cerebral palsy is caused by clinical negligence?

Occasionally, clinical negligence can play a part in causing cerebral palsy. This usually happens if there is a failure to deliver a child when there are indications of stress, and the child is deprived of oxygen. Failure to diagnose and treat conditions such as meningitis, hypoglycaemia and jaundice, all of which can lead to brain damage, is also a common cause of cerebral palsy arising from clinical negligence.
If you believe that your child’s condition was caused by clinical negligence, you may wish to seek legal advice from specialist cerebral palsy claim lawyers about making a claim for compensation. If you have a case, you may be entitled to a large compensation payment, which will help to pay for any specialist treatment or equipment that your child may need as a result of cerebral palsy.

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