Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
The signs of cerebral palsy are usually not noticeable in early infancy but become more obvious as the child’s nervous system matures.
Early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before 18 months of age, and parents are often the first to suspect that their infant is not developing motor skills normally.
Early signs include the following:
- Delayed milestones such as controlling head, rolling over, reaching with one hand, sitting without support, crawling, or walking.
- Persistence of “infantile” or “primitive” reflexes, which normally disappear 3-6 months after birth.
- Developing handedness before age 18 months: This indicates weakness or abnormal muscle tone on one side, which may be an early sign of CP.
Problems and disabilities related to CP range from very mild to very severe.
Following symptoms are most often:
- Abnormal muscle tone: Muscles may be very stiff (spastic) or unusually relaxed and “floppy.” Limbs may be held in unusual or awkward positions. For example, spastic leg muscles may cause legs to cross in a scissor-like position.
- Abnormal movements: Movements may be unusually jerky or abrupt, or slow and writhing. They may appear uncontrolled or without purpose.
- Skeletal deformities: People who have cerebral palsy on only one side may have shortened limbs on the affected side. If not corrected by surgery or a device, this can lead to tilting of the pelvic bones and scoliosis (curvature of the spine).
- Joint contractures: People with spastic cerebral palsy may develop severe stiffening of the joints because of unequal pressures on the joints exerted by muscles of differing tone or strength.
- Mental retardation: Some, although not all, children with cerebral palsy are affected by mental retardation. Generally, the more severe the retardation, the more severe the disability overall.
- Seizures: About one third of people with cerebral palsy have seizures. Seizures may appear early in life or years after the brain damage that causes cerebral palsy. The physical signs of a seizure may be partly masked by the abnormal movements of a person with cerebral palsy.
Depending on the type of cerebral palsy, other symptoms can include: speech problems (because they cannot control the muscles in the throat or mouth), swallowing problems, hearing and vision problems, dental problems and bowel and/or bladder control problems.