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Signs & Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy


Cerebral palsy refers to a group of movement disorders caused by abnormal brain development. The cause is unknown, but certain risk factors, such as premature birth, low birth weight, and reduced oxygen supply, are linked to cerebral palsy. An early diagnosis can make treatment and management of this condition more successful.

If you’d like a trusted neurologist to assess cerebral palsy symptoms in the Bay Area, use our search tool and Find a Doctor at Dignity Health. Our experts offer personalized care for all our cerebral palsy patients, whether babies or adults.

Common Cerebral Palsy Symptoms

The symptoms of cerebral palsy depend on the specific type of disorder and range from mild to severe. Generally, they are first seen in children by age three.

Symptoms of the three basic types of cerebral palsy are as follows:

  • Ataxia symptoms include poor coordination and balance when walking or performing activities that require fine motor skills.
  • Dyskinesia symptoms include uncontrolled movement of the legs, feet, hands, or arms, along with poor control of facial muscles. Mild cases may cause hand tremors while severe cases may involve uncontrolled waving or swinging of the arms (flailing).
  • Spasticity symptoms includes varying degrees of muscle stiffness in the legs, middle of the body, and arms. Severe cases can cause complete paralysis.

Other symptoms include:

  • Abnormal sensations, including pain
  • Bowel or bladder incontinence
  • Learning disabilities
  • Loss of hearing
  • Poor vision
  • Speech problems

Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis at Dignity Health

A Dignity Health family doctor or pediatrician can detect signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy during routine well-child visits. If your child has difficulty with motor coordination at certain developmental milestones, your doctor can perform a physical exam that tests reflexes and muscle tone.

Our doctors may use these tests to determine or rule out causes for movement disorders:

With guidance and support from your Dignity health doctor, you can learn how to improve the quality of life for someone with cerebral palsy.

Dignity Health hospitals offer testing and diagnosis of cerebral palsy symptoms in the Bay Area.