Cerebral palsy is a general term covering a number of neurological conditions that affect a child’s movement and coordination.
Neurological conditions affect the brain and nervous system.
Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain, which normally occurs before, during or soon after birth. Known possible causes of cerebral palsy include:
infection in early pregnancy
a difficult or premature birth
bleeding in the baby’s brain
abnormal brain development in the baby
Read more about the causes of cerebral palsy.
Symptoms of cerebral palsy
The symptoms of cerebral palsy vary greatly from child to child and depend on the type of cerebral palsy your child has (see box, left). Some children have problems walking, while others are profoundly disabled and require lifelong care. Read more about the symptoms of cerebral palsy.
Children with cerebral palsy often have other related conditions or problems, including:
difficulties speaking or understanding other people speak
curved spine (scoliosis)
How common is cerebral palsy?
It is estimated that 1 in every 400 children in the UK is affected by cerebral palsy. Approximately 1,800 babies are diagnosed with the condition each year.
Cerebral palsy is not a progressive condition. This means it will not get worse as your child gets older. However, it can put a great deal of strain on the body, which can cause problems in later life.
There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but a range of treatments can help relieve symptoms and increase a child’s sense of independence and self-esteem. These include physiotherapy, occupational therapy and medication to relieve muscle stiffness and spasms. Find out more about treatments for cerebral palsy.