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Understanding the 3 Different Types of Cerebral Palsy

Understanding the 3 Different Types of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy isn’t just one disease; it’s a group of brain disorders that affect muscle movement. As a group, the different types of cerebral palsy represent the most common movement disorder in children.

Though cerebral palsy is a lifelong disorder, it doesn’t worsen over time. The comprehensive and customized care provided at THINK Neurology for Kids improves your child’s symptoms and helps them find success and happiness in life.

While there are three primary types of cerebral palsy — spastic, dyskinetic, and ataxic — children can have mixed cerebral palsy, with symptoms from several types. The most common combination is dyskinetic and spastic, but children can have any mix.

Spastic cerebral palsy

Spastic cerebral palsy, the most common type, accounts for about 80% of all cases. This type is caused by damage in the brain’s motor cortex, the area of the brain that controls voluntary muscle movement.

Specific areas of the motor cortex control different body movements. As a result, spasticity affects different body areas. There are three subtypes of spastic cerebral palsy:

Spasticity causes stiff, tight muscles that make it hard to move. Children may have an unusual gait, difficulty walking, or struggle to stand upright. 

The joints in their limbs may involuntarily flex because of the tight muscles. For example, their fingers may stay closed like a fist, or their knees, hips, or elbows may stay bent.

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy, also called athetoid cerebral palsy, develops when nerve damage occurs in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia.

The basal ganglia receive directions from the motor cortex and other information such as input from your senses. Then it coordinates movement by accepting or rejecting different signals.

Damage to the basal ganglia causes the following dyskinetic movements:

Dyskinesia can affect fine motor skills (the ability to use your hands) and gross motor movements (moving your arms, legs, and body). Children may have more than one type of dyskinetic movement. For example, chorea may occur with athetosis or dystonia.

Ataxic cerebral palsy

The ataxic type of cerebral palsy occurs due to damage in the cerebellum. This area of the brain controls balance, ensuring you can maintain balance every time your posture changes. 

A healthy cerebellum is essential for performing all body movements. It ensures you can bend without falling over and allows you to perform complex and rapid movements with coordination and balance.

An impaired sense of balance causes unsteady, shaky, and uncoordinated body movement. In addition to affecting limb and body movement, ataxia may affect children’s eyes, speech, and swallowing ability.

Support and care for all types of cerebral palsy

The complex nature of cerebral palsy requires a group of specialists to support your child’s abilities and help them reach their highest level of functioning.

The team at THINK Neurology for Kids serves as the foundation for your child’s care. They manage your child’s physical and emotional health while serving as your advocate and coordinating treatment with other specialists your child may need.

If you have questions about your child’s symptoms or need ongoing, compassionate care for cerebral palsy, call THINK Neurology for Kids or request an appointment online today.

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