There are different types of Cerebral Palsy (CP) such as Spastic, Athetoid and Ataxic. Each type is diagnosed by different symptoms in relation to movement. Mixed Cerebral Palsy is apparent in children who demonstrate movement problems that fall into more than one type of Cerebral Palsy.
Three main types of Cerebral Palsy and symptoms they include are as follows:
- Spastic - High muscle tone, stiffness and jerking movements
- Athetoid - High and low tone variations causing inflexibility and limpness
- Ataxic – Balance and coordination difficulties affecting normal movement
What can cause it?
Mixed Cerebral Palsy occurs when damage has been caused to the motor control centres in multiple parts of the brain. The degree and kind of disability is determined by the location and extent of the brain damage or abnormality. This damage can happen before, during or shortly after birth.
The different parts of the brain that determine the type and severity of Cerebral Palsy a child may suffer from are as follows:
Location - Frontal part of the brain just above the forehead.
Purpose - Movement starts as signals from this part of the brain and this regulates motor control.
Causes - Spastic Cerebral Palsy.
Location - At the back of the head just above the neck.
Purpose - To maintain balance and coordination of movement.
Causes - Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Location - In the centre of the brain
Purpose - Processes signals from the motor cortex before sending them into the brainstem.
Causes - Athetoid Cerebral Palsy
These parts of the brain can incur damage due to a number of factors. This can include:
- Oxygen Deprivation
- Blood clotting
- Maternal High Blood Pressure
- Inadequate Medical Care
- Abnormal brain development
What are the effects?
The most common type of mixed cerebral palsy is a combination of athetoid and spastic cerebral palsy. Children with mixed Cerebral Palsy can experience both the tight muscle tone of spastic cerebral palsy and involuntary movements of athetoid cerebral palsy. However, the extent and location of brain damage will vary with every child suffering from cerebral palsy therefore there will be a wide variety of symptoms.
The most common signs of mixed cerebral palsy include:
- Exaggerated movements
- Poor posture
- Stiff or loose muscle tone, causing impaired or involuntary movements
- Difficulty performing fine motor skills
- Tremors, shaking or seizures
- Difficulty with balance and coordination
- Visual or hearing impairment
- Learning difficulties
- Scoliosis or other skeletal abnormalities
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing and sometimes drool
- Incontinence or constipation
Mixed Cerebral Palsy symptoms do not always show straight away and in fact, it can take a few years to diagnose as all children develop at different speeds. However, development signs include the inability for a child to hold up their head, favouring one arm and the inability to roll over.
Unfortunately, as is the case with all types of cerebral palsy, there is no cure. However there are numerous treatment options available to control symptoms and improve quality of life as best as possible.
Occupational Therapy is provided to help improve motor control and coordination by using games, toys and books. This type of treatment aims to provide children with the tools to be as independent as possible.
Physical Therapy is the most common first step for treating mixed cerebral palsy. This focuses on the specific movement problems the child is experiencing. This can contribute to helping strength, mobility and flexibility. Devices that provide mobility aid such as braces and splints can also be obtained.
Therapeutic electrical stimulation is another treatment option. This delivers electrical stimulation to the body when the patient sleeps by increasing blood flow to weak muscles, which in turn helps them grow and repair themselves.
Orthopaedic surgery can be done to help correct skeletal abnormalities, relieve pain and make movement more manageable.
Assistive devices can be provided for vision and hearing problems such as eyeglasses and hearing aids.