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Early Diagnosis Of Cerebral Palsy Is Important For Kids To Achieve Their Maximum Potential

Cerebral palsy (CP) comes in many forms and with a variety of symptoms, often making it difficult to diagnose. Since many children have CP from birth, there are usually signs early on that the child may have developmental challenges. Although some mild forms of CP may not be diagnosed until ages three or older, most children with severe CP are diagnosed within the first two years. However, the earlier the diagnosis is made, the earlier treatment can begin.

Early Signs Of CP

Parents are an important factor in diagnosing CP at an early age. They are the ones with the infant the most and will be the first to notice when something seems to be not right in the first year. As the child develops, these symptoms may become more pronounced.

  • Excessive drooling. Although common in small babies, as they get older and develop this becomes more noticeable that it may be a symptom of other issues.
  • Issues sucking. One of the first signs for many infants with CP is a problem sucking or swallowing. Lack of muscle control can make this difficult for some children with CP.
  • Stiff muscles or exaggerated reflexes. One of the common attributes of CP is tight or stiff muscles due to spasticity. This can often be the symptom that draws attention to the disease.
  • Muscle control. This may be evident in infants when they have trouble controlling one side of their body or just are not developing motor skills as is expected as they get older.

The symptoms can vary in CP as there are many forms and levels of difficulty within the disease, so there is not a cookie cutter diagnostic test. However, even if there is a chance it may be CP, the earlier it can be diagnosed, the sooner  treatment can begin to help the child develop to their fullest potential.

Testing For CP

There are a variety of tests a physician will want to perform if CP is suspected. Since CP is due to a neurological problem, there is not a simple blood test that diagnosis CP. However, blood tests will most likely be done to rule out other diseases that can mimic CP.

The most comprehensive way to find CP is through brain imaging to look for scarring, cysts or abnormalities within the brain tissue. This can be difficult with infants as CT scans and MRI’s require the child to be able to hold still for long periods of time. Although not as accurate, cranial ultrasounds may be used on small or premature infants, as they are easier to perform and have less risk.

The doctor will also want to use observation techniques to further diagnose a child suspected of having CP. They most likely will suggest a consult with specialists such as a child neurologist or those in the eye and ear fields. Observations can confirm CP and also help narrow down the particular type and severity the child has.

Treatment will vary as much as the disease itself, but whatever therapies are recommended, they are best started as early as possible. There are many ways for children with CP to learn to cope and overcome many of their symptoms through therapy, specialized equipment and medications. By starting them on the right path for their development, they will have the chance to meet their fullest potential and have a better quality of life.


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