What Other Conditions are Associated With Cerebral Palsy?

Many people with cerebral palsy have no existing comorbidities. On the other hand, since cerebral palsy affects the brain and may be caused by perinatal stroke, it's not uncommon for it to co-exist with other medical issues or disabilities. People with cerebral palsy may struggle to hear, see, or experience behavioral or intellectual problems.

Some of the most common conditions that co-exist with cerebral palsy include:

  • Intellectual disability or cognitive deficit. Many people with cerebral palsy experience some degree of intellectual impairment. It is more common in those who have spastic quadriplegia, epilepsy, or other seizure activity in the brain.
  • Delayed growth or development. Children with cerebral palsy often experience delays in attaining age-appropriate speech or fine motor skills. Social-emotional and emotional issues may occur, especially as a child becomes older and more aware of his or her disability. Babies with cerebral palsy may also experience a failure to thrive, a term doctors use when babies are not meeting their expected weight gain for their age.
  • Seizure disorders. Children with cerebral palsy often experience seizures that persist into adulthood. Classic tonic-clonic seizures or partial seizures may occur and may require treatment with medication.

The limbs of an affected child with cerebral palsy tend to be small and tighter than average. As a result, one side of the body may be disproportionate to the other side, leading to other possible complications such as:

  • Issues with the development of the spine. Scoliosis, kyphosis, and lordosis are abnormal spinal formations that can make walking more difficult and lead to lifelong back pain.
  • Issues with hearing, speech, or impaired vision. Strabismus, or a misalignment of the right and left eyes, is a neurological condition that can occur and lead to poor depth perception and vision. Speech and language disorders such as apraxia, or difficulty forming words, may also be present.
Other Complications of Cerebral Palsy

People with cerebral palsy have hypertonia (high muscle tone) or hypotonia (low muscle tone), which can lead to other complications. In individuals with hypotonia, drooling and incontinence are a common concern. Poor muscle control and signaling to the brain can lead to either of these conditions. Both drooling and urinary incontinence can lead to skin irritation and psychological issues, especially as a child gets older. Hypertonia, on the other hand, can lead to spasticity of muscles that cause socially isolating behavior as a child ages.

Lastly, some people with cerebral palsy have difficulty experiencing sensation. For some, tactile perceptions are skewed, a condition called stereognosis. A child with this condition would experience difficulty discerning the difference between hard and soft. For others, sensory integration issues make it difficult to experience different textures or loud noises.

Timely Intervention for Children With Cerebral Palsy

Children with cerebral palsy may experience a myriad of symptoms and co-existing health conditions. While those who only have mild cerebral palsy may follow a typical pattern of development, others will struggle to read, write, speak, or move. Since many types of cerebral palsy exist, comorbid conditions can vary widely both in nature and severity.

Motor, cognitive, and speech and language impairments are common in kids with cerebral palsy. As children develop, it not uncommon for social or psychological issues to present, and they may feel socially isolated from their peers. Psychological interventions such as counseling and social work may prove beneficial for those struggling.

No matter what other conditions a child may have, early intervention is essential. With appropriate interventions such as physical, occupational, or speech therapy, children can make great strides and achieve the best possible outcomes for their particular situation.

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