Cerebral palsy (CP) is a general term for a group of permanent, non-progressive movement disorders that cause physical disability, mainly in the areas of body movement. There may also be problems with sensation, depth perception, and communication ability. Difficulty with cognition and epilepsy is found in about one-third of cases. There are a number of subtypes including a type characterized by spasticity, a type characterized by poor co-ordination, and types which feature both symptoms and neither.
Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the motor control centres of the developing brain and can occur during pregnancy, during childbirth, or after birth up to about age three. About 2% of all cerebral palsy cases are believed to be due to a genetic cause. Cerebral palsy is not an infectious disease and is not contagious. Most cases are diagnosed at a young age rather than during adolescence or adulthood.
Improvements in the care of newborns has helped reduce the number of babies who develop cerebral palsy and increased the survival of those with very low birth weights. There is no known cure, with efforts attempting to treat and prevent complications. It occurs in about 2.1 per 1,000 live births.
Cerebral refers to the cerebrum, which is the affected area of the brain. The disorder may often involve connections between the cortex and other parts of the brain such as the cerebellum. The term palsy in modern language refers to disorder of movement, but the word root “palsy” technically means “paralysis”, even though it is not used as such within the meaning of cerebral palsy.