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What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders involving brain and nervous system functions such as movement, hearing, seeing and thinking. The term cerebral refers to the brain and palsy refers paralysis or lack of control with one’s body. It is a disability resulting from injury to the brain before, during or shortly after birth. Approximately 8,000 infants born in the United States are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year.

The causes of cerebral palsy vary and may include:

  • Injury due to lack of oxygen in the brain
  • Bleeding or infections in the brain
  • Severe jaundice
  • Infections in the mother during pregnancy

In some cases, the injury is caused by low levels of oxygen suffered before or during birth. This can be the result of negligent medical care provided to the mother and child during the birthing process.

Understand how by visiting causes of cerebral palsy.

Signs of Cerebral Palsy

Signs of cerebral palsy may appear in the first months or years of a child’s life, typically prior to age three. In more than 80% of cases, symptoms are apparent within the first month of life. In instances where the infant’s brain is injured by low oxygen levels, there may be signs of this brain injury present at the time of delivery. However, it is very common for infants to experience the symptoms of cerebral palsy before an official diagnosis is given.

Learn more about the symptoms of cerebral palsy.

Life with cerebral palsy varies based upon the severity of the brain injury. Some people require little or no assistance. Those with severe cerebral palsy may require special medical, educational, and social services. Cerebral palsy can put tremendous financial stress on the family of a child with the disorder. In 2003, the average lifetime cost of cerebral palsy-related expenses for one person was estimated at $921,000*.

* This figure represents both direct and indirect costs, such as medical expenses, accessibility modifications to homes and cars, special education, and lost wages.