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NINDS Disorders is an index of neurological conditions provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This valuable tool offers detailed descriptions, facts on treatment and prognosis, and patient organization contact information for over 500 identified neurological disorders.

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Cerebral Palsy

The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination but don’t worsen over time. Even though cerebral palsy affects muscle movement, it isn’t caused by problems in the muscles or nerves.  It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements.  The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months or years later. The early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before a child reaches 3 years of age.  The most common are a lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia); stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity); walking with one foot or leg dragging; walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait; and muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy.  A small number of children have cerebral palsy as the result of brain damage in the first few months or years of life, brain infections such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis, or head injury from a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or child abuse.

Treatment

Cerebral palsy can’t be cured, but treatment will often improve a child's capabilities.  In general, the earlier treatment begins the better chance children have of overcoming developmental disabilities or learning new ways to accomplish the tasks that challenge them.   Treatment may include physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, drugs to control seizures, relax muscle spasms, and alleviate pain; surgery to correct anatomical abnormalities or release tight muscles; braces and other orthotic devices; wheelchairs and rolling walkers; and communication aids such as computers with attached voice synthesizers. 

Prognosis

Cerebral palsy doesn’t always cause profound disabilities.  While one child with severe cerebral palsy might be unable to walk and need extensive, lifelong care, another with mild cerebral palsy might not require special assistance. Supportive treatments, medications, and surgery can help many individuals improve their motor skills and ability to communicate with the world.

Research

Researchers are investigating the roles of mishaps early in brain development, including genetic defects, which are sometimes responsible for the brain malformations and abnormalities that result in cerebral palsy. Scientists are also looking at traumatic events in newborn babies’ brains, such as bleeding, epileptic seizures, and breathing and circulation problems, which can cause the abnormal release of chemicals that trigger the kind of damage that causes cerebral palsy.  Researchers also hope to find ways to prevent white matter disease--the most common cause of cerebral palsy.  To make sure children are getting the right kinds of therapies, studies are also being done that evaluate both experimental treatments and treatments already in use so that physicians and parents have valid information to help them choose the best therapy.

View a list of studies currently seeking patients.

View more studies on this condition.

Read additional information from Medline Plus.

Organizations

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP)

Educates, advocates and provides support services to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities.

1660 L Street, NW
Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-776-0406 800-USA-5UCP (872-5827)
Fax: 202-776-0414

Pathways Awareness

National non-profit organization trusted to assure the best for all babies' physical development by raising awareness about the gift of early detection, the promise of early therapy, and the benefits of tummy time. Trusted to assure the best for all babies physical development.

150 N. Michigan Avenue
Suite 2100
Chicago, IL 60601
Tel: 800-955-CHILD (2445)
Fax: 312-893-6621

March of Dimes

Works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality through programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy.

1275 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605
Tel: 914-997-4488 888-MODIMES (663-4637)
Fax: 914-428-8203

Easter Seals

Provides services to help children and adults with disabilities and/or special needs as well as support to their families. Supports the National AgrAbility Project, a program for farmers, ranchers, and farm workers with disabilities.

233 South Wacker Drive
Suite 2400
Chicago, IL 60606
Tel: 312-726-6200 800-221-6827
Fax: 312-726-1494

Children's Neurobiological Solutions (CNS) Foundation

National, non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate the development of brain repair therapies and cures by supporting cutting-edge collaborative research on brain damage due to childhood illness, injury, or any other cause. Provides information and resources for families and health care providers.

1223 Wilshire Bvld. #937
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Tel: 866-CNS-5580 (267-5580); (310) 889-8611

Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Assocn. (CHASA)

CHASA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and families affected by pediatric stroke and other causes of hemiplegia. Offers national family retreat, local family events and seminars, online support group, websites, fact sheets, clinical study information, and pediatric stroke awareness campaigns.

4101 West Green Oaks Blvd., Ste. 305
PMB 149
Arlington, TX 76016
Tel: 817-492-4325

Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation

Dedicated to funding research and educational activities relevant to discovering cause, cure, and evidence based care for individuals with CP and related developmental disabilities.

186 Princeton Hightstown Road
Building 4, 2nd Floor
Princeton Junction, NJ 08550
Tel: 609-452-1200

Pedal-with-Pete Foundation [for Research on Cerebral Palsy]

Nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money for research to improve the quality of life for those with cerebral palsy. Aim is to help in the fight for the prevention, treatment and cure of cerebral palsy.

P.O. Box 1233
Worthington, OH 43085
Tel: 614-527-0202
Fax: 330-673-1240

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