Upon receiving the news that your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, you may feel overwhelmed not only by the emotional impact of the discovery but by the amount of questions that you have about the condition, its treatment and your child’s prognosis.
Cerebral palsy is often accompanied by secondary conditions and co-mitigating factors that can make it more difficult to arrive at a diagnosis and to create a treatment plan. The first step toward embracing a life with a child who has cerebral palsy is to develop an understanding about the condition and the effects that it will have on your child’s development and health.
Primary Conditions of Cerebral Palsy
One of the reasons doctors must perform extensive tests over an extended period of time is that the condition is often accompanied by other conditions that are either related to cerebral palsy or exist independently. Understanding your child’s cerebral palsy begins with an understanding of the primary conditions associated with the condition. These conditions exist solely because of an injury to the brain or a birth defect and do not follow a progression as found in similar neurological conditions.
- Motor control and coordination— the areas of the brain affected by the injury or deformation make it difficult for the brain to communicate with other areas of the body. The result is impaired motor function and difficulty walking or moving.
- Poor muscle tone— muscle tone is affected due to the atrophy of muscles impacted by the inability of the brain to communicate properly with the affected limbs. Over time, this exacerbates difficulties with motor function because the muscles become too weak to perform their intended functions.
- Posture and balance— children when cerebral palsy often face difficulties maintaining proper posture and balance because the muscles normally used to support balance are affected and weakened over time.
- Oral motor function— despite any knowledge or understanding of language, those with the condition may find it difficult to form words due to the inability of the brain to communicate with the muscles responsible for speech. These muscles perform other vital functions and diminished oral motor function can result in secondary conditions.
Secondary Conditions of Cerebral Palsy
The difference between primary and secondary conditions is that secondary conditions occur directly due to complications arising from primary conditions and are not conditions that directly contribute to the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. These conditions may or may not be progressive and in some cases, therapy and treatment may reduce the severity of secondary conditions or the chance of their occurrence altogether.
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing and breathing— the loss of oral motor function can also impact the ability of a child to control drooling and to chew and swallow properly. This makes routine tasks such as eating hazardous as they become choking hazards and excessive drooling can lead to skin irritation or pneumonia.
- Impaired vision or hearing— the muscles responsible for controlling the movement of the eyes may be affected and this can result in lazy or crossed eyes. Over time, this can lead to double vision or force the brain to ignore signals from one of the eyes entirely. Children with cerebral palsy are also more prone to experiencing hearing loss over time, requiring frequent monitoring of any progressive loss of hearing and vision over time.
- Incontinence— it may be more difficult for those diagnosed with cerebral palsy to maintain bowel control and the condition may worsen over time as the muscles continue to become weakened.
- Failure to thrive— this is a medical term for the delayed development or growth in children suffering from cerebral palsy and is directly related to the child’s loss of motor function. Over time, the muscles and joints affected by the condition do not grow and develop at a normal rate and can contribute to deformities and make it more difficult to overcome diminished motor function.
Associative Conditions Commonly Found In People With CP
These conditions are not directly caused by cerebral palsy but a link has been established between cerebral palsy and these associative conditions, which often accompany the diagnosis. What defines an associative condition is the fact that it may exist regardless of whether the child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and is indicative of brain damage that has occurred in another area of the brain at the time of whatever injury or event led caused the conditions.
- Epilepsy— many children affected by cerebral palsy suffer from seizures and uncontrollable muscle spasms. Studies have linked some form of epilepsy to around half of those diagnosed with cerebral palsy which suggests a strong link between the two conditions.
- Learning disabilities— mental retardation and intellectual disorders are strongly linked to cerebral palsy. Many of those with the condition also suffer from behavioral disorders and some form of learning disability such as ADHD, autism and retardation and while the conditions themselves have not been directly linked to cerebral palsy; a link has been established between the condition and diminished mental capacity.
- Vision and hearing loss— the vision and hearing impairment that commonly exists in children with cerebral palsy is not always the direct result of the condition itself. Children may not experience vision problems due to weakened muscles in the eyes, for example, but will still suffer from progressive vision impairment due to secondary or associative conditions.
The Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC understand that you may feel lost, scared and even angry following the discovery that your child has been diagnosed with this serious neurological condition. The exorbitant cost of caring for children with cerebral palsy makes it nearly impossible to financially provide for your child without securing compensation— whether through your insurance provider or the negligent party responsible for your child’s injuries.
Contact us today for a free consultation so that we can help you investigate the exact cause of your child’s injuries and explore your legal options with you while also helping connect you with the professionals and resources that you will need to access as you begin caring for your child.