Cerebral palsy (CP) is the name given to a group of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination.

Causes of CP

CP can be caused by damage to the brain or by abnormal development. The brain damage that leads to CP can happen in utero — before birth — or during the first few years of a child’s life, when the brain is still developing. There are several types of cerebral palsy, differentiated based on the severity, type, and location of the symptoms.

Symptoms of CP

The symptoms of CP vary in type and severity between patients, and change within an individual over time.

All people with the disorders have difficulties with movement and posture, and children with CP show delays in reaching motor developmental milestones.

Patients with CP show poor muscle coordination, called ataxia, as well as stiff or tight muscles, known as spasticity. Some individuals show changes in muscle tone, making them either too stiff or too floppy.

Some people with CP may have tremors or random involuntary movements, while others may have seizures, intellectual disability, and impaired vision or hearing.

Many patients have difficulty swallowing and speaking.

How common is CP?

The prevalence of cerebral palsy is estimated to be 1.5 to 4 children per 1,000 live births around the world. About 1 in 323 children are diagnosed with CP.

Diagnosis of CP

CP is diagnosed by screening children regularly for mental and motor development.

At every age, there are developmental milestones and an approximate age at which children should reach them. Children who consistently fail to reach these developmental milestones may need more extensive tests, such as brain scans, to determine whether the cause is CP or another neurological disorder.

Children with CP need to be screened for vision and hearing loss, as well as other physical problems.

Most children with CP are diagnosed in the first few years of life.

Treatment of CP

There currently is no cure for CP, but there are a few treatments available to improve patients’ capabilities.

Physical and occupational therapy, for example, can help with motor development — building strength, range of motion, and flexibility. For patients who have difficulty swallowing or speaking, speech therapy can help.

For some people with CP, surgery can help reduce muscle spasticity or stiffness.

There are also some medicines that can be used to treat muscle stiffness.


Last updated: Feb. 19, 2020


Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.