What should parents in New Mexico know about cerebral palsy?

A motor disorder appearing in infancy or early childhood, cerebral palsy may be caused by birth injuries, and affects people throughout their lives.

Every parent in New Mexico and elsewhere hopes that his or her child will be healthy. There are numerous conditions, however, that may present during childhood and affect people throughout their lives. One such condition is cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder affecting people's posture, movement and muscle tone. While the specific cause of cerebral palsy is not always known, it is believed that birth injuries and other such medical negligence may be contributing factors in many cases.

Designated based on the type of movement disorder experienced as a result of the condition, there are four primary classifications of cerebral palsy. People's conditions may be classified as spastic when they experience stiff muscles, ataxia when their disorders cause poor coordination and balance, or dyskinesia should they suffer from uncontrollable movements. Mixed cerebral palsy involves the characteristic symptoms of two or more other forms of the condition.

Causes of cerebral palsy

The most common motor disability for children, cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain during its development or abnormalities in the brain's development. While the exact cause of their condition may be difficult for some to pinpoint, there are some factors that commonly contribute to its occurrence or increase a child's risk of developing cerebral palsy. These include injuries, infections and problems with blood flow to the brain.

Birth injuries and pregnancy complications may also contribute to children's development of cerebral palsy. Breech births and complicated deliveries may result in a lack of oxygen to infants' brains, potentially causing this condition for some. In some cases, infections and certain health problems suffered by women during their pregnancies may lead to their babies having cerebral palsy. This is especially true when conditions such as herpes, rubella and chickenpox are left untreated.

Common symptoms of cerebral palsy

Depending on the type and severity of their conditions, people with cerebral palsy may experience a range of signs and symptoms. The Mayo Clinic points out that some of the most common of these include the following:

  • Stiff muscles and normal or exaggerated reflexes
  • Involuntary movements or tremors
  • A crouched gait or other difficulties walking
  • Seizures
  • Difficulties with eating or sucking
  • Favoring one side of the body

In most cases, these and other signs of cerebral palsy appear during infancy or in the first few years of a child's life. While each child is unique, and thus, develops on their own schedule, delays in reaching certain milestones may be an indication that a child has cerebral palsy.

Treating cerebral palsy

Unfortunately, cerebral palsy cannot be cured. As such, treatment options are aimed at improving the lives of those with the condition. Children and adults with cerebral palsy may work with physical, occupational and recreation therapists to improve their strength and develop adaptive techniques. In some cases, surgical interventions may be used to correct bone abnormalities or lessen muscle tightness resulting from spasticity. Depending on their symptoms, some may be prescribed medications to help manage complications associated with their conditions, treat pain or improve their function.

Working with a lawyer

When birth injuries occur in New Mexico and elsewhere, children may be left with serious medical conditions that require extensive and lasting treatment and care. In cases when their injuries could have been prevented, the health care providers involved may be held liable. Thus, parents whose children have suffered birth injuries may benefit from consulting with a legal representative. An attorney may help them understand their options, as well as determine if their child's condition might have been prevented.