Because cerebral palsy (CP) affects body movement and muscle coordination, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS) explains that a number of the symptoms commonly associated with this condition can be witnessed visually.
Visual Symptoms of CP
The visual indicators can appear on one side of the body, affect the whole body of the person with CP, or impact a single limb or extremity. The indicators include the following:
- Exaggerated reflexes
- Tremors and other involuntary types of movements
- Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as picking up a crayon or grasping silverware
- Drooling or difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty speaking
- An inability to walk
- Walking on the toes
- Walking with a crouched gait
- Walking with a scissored gait, which occurs when the knees are internally rotated, ankles are extended, and there is pointing of the feet and toes
- Seizures, particularly if the child has CP that co-occurs with epilepsy
Individuals with cerebral palsy may also experience weakness in their arms or legs, muscles that feel stiff or tight, and a muscle tone that is “either too stiff or too floppy.”
Other symptoms may not be noticed right away, such as those related to intellectual disabilities, vision, or hearing. Individuals diagnosed with CP may also have abnormal pain or touch perceptions.
The exact symptoms experienced by someone with CP depends on the type he or she has, which areas of the brain have been damaged, the extent of the damage, and the severity of the condition.
To make matters even more complex, these symptoms can also change over time. Some may disappear, and others may emerge as the individual ages.
Early Signs of CP
If you’re concerned that your child may have CP, there are a few signs that parents and caretakers can watch for to help determine whether there may be an issue. The specific signs depend largely on the age of the child.
- Newborn to 6 months old. If the baby is under 6 months of age, the NINDS says that some of the early warning signs include:
- The child feels stiff or floppy.
- When you pick the child up, his or her legs stiffen and either cross or scissor.
- If you pick up a child up from lying on the back, his or her head lags.
- 6 months and up. If your baby is 6 months or older, some potential signs of CP are:
- The child doesn’t roll to one side or the other.
- The child isn’t able to bring his or her hands together, or cannot bring them to the mouth.
- The child reaches with one hand while the other one remains closed and fisted.
- 10 months and up. For babies who are 10 months old or older, signs of CP may include:
- Crawling with one side of the body, but dragging the other.
- An inability to stand up, even if there is something to help support him or her, like a parent or a piece of furniture.
As you can see, a number of these signs appear when a child doesn’t reach the milestones typically achieved by a certain age.
Additional Symptoms of CP
While many of the symptoms previously discussed are commonplace for a someone with CP, the Mayo Clinic explains that there are a few more signs that are often present with this particular disease.
Among them are:
- The presence of oral diseases
- Psychiatric conditions
- Urinary incontinence
If any of these symptoms appear to be present, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. At that point, he or she may recommend further testing to determine whether or not cerebral palsy exists.