Understanding Cerebral Palsy

Health Conditions Jun 05, 2022

If you or a loved one live with Cerebral Palsy, you are not alone. It’s the most common motor disability in childhood, with one in every 345 children in the U.S born with some form of the disorder. And while Cerebral Palsy can come with a range of challenges, living a full and active life is the ultimate goal.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy, or “CP,” is a disorder that mainly affects body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by brain damage before, during or immediately after birth while the infant’s brain is actively under development. CP presents differently from one person to the next, but general signs and symptoms include physical impairment of movement, coordination, speech, and swallowing, gastrointestinal disorders, developmental issues and other problems. Depending on which part of the brain is affected, different movement disorders can occur. 

There are four types of CP:

  • Spastic Cerebral Palsy: This is the most common type of CP. People with spastic CP have stiff muscles, which can affect the legs, arms, torso, and face.
  • Dyskinesia Cerebral Palsy: People with dyskinetic CP have difficulty controlling the movement of their hands, arms, feet, and legs. 
  • Ataxia Cerebral Palsy: People with ataxia CP have trouble with balance and coordination.
  • Mixed Cerebral Palsy: Some people may have more than one type of CP, otherwise known as “mixed CP.” 

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Although the exact causes of CP are unknown, there are some risk factors that may play a role. Some of these include:

  • Genetic mutations
  • Maternal infections
  • Fetal stroke
  • Bleeding into the brain
  • Infant infections
  • Traumatic head injury
  • Lack of oxygen

Many people with CP also live with additional, co-occurring conditions or complications beyond impaired physical movement, such as autism, epilepsy or malnutrition. If you or your loved one with CP has difficulty chewing or swallowing, then getting enough nutrition can become challenging and potentially lead to issues like impaired growth and development, weakened bones or increased vulnerability to illness. For these reasons, your doctor may recommend using a feeding tube to help you meet some or all of your nutritional needs.  

Tube Feeding Formulas for Cerebral Palsy 

Getting nourishment through a feeding tube can feel intimidating and overwhelming at first. Your healthcare team will help walk you through the feeding process and work with you to determine which type of tube feeding “formula” that is right for you. 

There are several different types of formulas available. While standard formulas work well for children and adults with normal digestion, others, like peptide-based formulas, are specialized to support nutrient absorption and tolerance in people with a gastrointestinal or “GI” disorders.  That’s because peptides, small pieces of protein that have been broken down into little fragments, are more easily digested and absorbed in the intestinal tract. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about which formula will best meet your needs. 

Treatment of Cerebral Palsy

Diagnosis of CP is not clear cut. It’s a process that can include multiple tests and conversations with different medical teams, and it may take some time. Signs and symptoms can become more apparent as time goes on, which is why there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Although there is no cure for CP, there are many effective ways to manage its symptoms – from physical, occupational or speech therapy to orthotic devices, assistive technologies, medications and tube feedings. With so many treatment options, those with CP can enjoy a long, healthy, and fulfilling life.