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Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy


Cerebral palsy (CP) is typically diagnosed in children who have difficulty with movement in early childhood or infancy. CP is a group of neurological disorders caused by abnormalities in different parts of the brain. While no known cure exists today, early intervention can help treat some of the debilitating aspects of the condition. 

At Dignity Health, we strive to provide high quality care with respect and compassion. Find a Doctor today to speak with a knowledgeable provider specializing in cerebral palsy in the Bay Area.

Identifying the Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy affects the parts of the brain responsible for muscle movement. The earliest signs of the condition often include problems with balance and walking in toddlers. Additional signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy are: 

  • Abnormal muscle tone (either too rigid or too floppy)
  • Developmental delays
  • Dragging a foot or leg when walking
  • Impaired bladder or bowel control
  • Impaired hearing or vision
  • Pain
  • Poor coordination of voluntary movements such as reaching or walking
  • Seizures
  • Stiff muscles or muscle spasms
  • Walking on the toes instead of using the heels of the feet

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Abnormalities in the parts of the brain that control muscle movement and balance trigger the symptoms of cerebral palsy. Unfortunately, the underlying cause of these brain abnormalities has not yet been found.

Some children develop CP as a result of premature birth, brain trauma, insufficient oxygen to the brain prior to birth or during delivery, intrauterine growth restriction, or an infection such as meningitis early in life. Most children diagnosed with CP are born with the condition. However, cerebral palsy is not hereditary — it cannot be passed from parent to child.

Cerebral Palsy Treatment at Dignity Health

Each child is impacted by CP differently. Some experience mild symptoms that require moderate treatment. Others live with debilitating effects that require a lot of support and care. Early intervention can allow many children with cerebral palsy to live full and rich lives.

CP is a chronic condition that cannot be treated directly. As such, treatment strategies focus on relieving symptoms and include:

  • Braces and orthotics for walking
  • Medical equipment such as wheelchairs to help with mobility
  • Medications to treat seizures, stiff muscles, or pain
  • Physical and occupational therapy to overcome the effects of poor coordination or muscle spasticity
  • Speech therapy, if CP affects a child’s ability to speak
  • Surgery to correct anatomical abnormalities or release severely tight muscles

Cerebral palsy may be prevented by avoiding brain trauma early in life.

Dignity Health offers expert care for numerous neurological conditions, including cerebral palsy, in the Bay Area.