Cerebral Palsy Life Expectancy

Cerebral palsy can be a debilitating illness, and it affects millions of people worldwide, young and old. In America, it is estimated that more than 760,000 people have cerebral palsy. Around 10,000 infants are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year. With many people affected by cerebral palsy, it is possible that you may know someone with the condition, someone you may care for. It is important to remember that cerebral palsy life expectancy can be very positive. Read on to know more details.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is the name given to a group of chronic conditions, or "palsies", which is a series of brain disorders. Cerebral palsy can lead a person to lose sufficient control of his or her movements and damage a developing brain. Cerebral palsy is known as a non-progressive brain disorder, which means the condition doesn't progress and increase in severity, but the symptoms that result from the brain damage can change over time, either worsening or, with hope, improving.

Somewhere between 35% and 50% of children with cerebral palsy may also have a seizure disorder. It is also possible for them to have learning difficulties, as well as vision, speech, hearing or language impairments and possibly some level of mental retardation.

Cerebral palsy is the most common childhood disability and often develops by 2-3 years old. Its cause is still unclear, but the main deduction of modern medical professionals is that cerebral palsy is most likely caused by birth injuries, infections, and/or a poor supply of oxygen to the brain before, during or after birth.

Cerebral Palsy Life Expectancy

Every individual's life expectancy is dependent on the severity of one's condition. But don't be pessimistic. Most children that are affected by the condition can live 30 to 70 years. With proper management, children with cerebral palsy can grow up peacefully and lead a rather long, normal, happy life. This means visits to doctors, medications, therapies and possibly surgeries. 

If the condition is severe, or if the condition is not managed properly, life span will be shortened. This is why it is essential to ensure proper management of the disease. Other factors that can affect lifespan include:

  • Level of visual impairment
  • Level of impaired movement
  • Severity of eating difficulties
  • Presence of seizure
  • Respiratory function

How to Extend Cerebral Palsy Life Expectancy

As mentioned above, proper management of cerebral palsy can help extend life span. Below is information that will help you manage the condition properly:

1. A Professional Team

To ensure proper management of cerebral palsy, it is important to find the right health care professionals. The following is some professionals you may need:

  • Pediatric neurologists who are trained in treating infants with neurological (brain and nervous system) disorders;
  • Orthopedic surgeons who are trained in the treatment of muscle and bone disorders;
  • Pediatrician who help plan and oversee the treatment;
  • Other areas of specialty worth noting are mental health specialists, speech-language pathologists and physical therapists, all of which can help in treatment of cerebral palsy.

2. Medication

Before consuming any medication, it is important to speak with your health care provider to assess the risk and potential effectiveness of the drugs. The medication prescribed varies depending on whether the condition is isolated (only in certain muscles), or generalized (affecting the entire body). Some medications that may be prescribed are listed below:

  • OnabotulinumtoxinA (Botox): If the condition is isolated, your health care professional may suggest injecting Botox directly to the nerve, the muscle or both. This will be required once every three months or so. Side effects of this treatment include weakness, bruising, pain, possibly difficulty breathing and/or swallowing.
  • Oral muscle relaxants: If the condition is generalized, then a treatment of oral muscle relaxants, such as Valium (diazepam), Dantrium (dantrolene) and/or Gablofen (baclofen), may be suggested by your health care professional. These drugs help relax stiff muscles. Side effects include the risk of developing a dependency, sleepiness and nausea.

3. Therapy

Aside from drug treatment, there is a number of non-drug therapies that can help a person suffering from cerebral palsy improve his or her functional abilities and become more positive about the cerebral palsy life expectancy. Some of these therapies are listed below:

  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy, especially specialized muscle exercises, can help build strength, balance, flexibility and motor development in a child suffering from cerebral palsy.
  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapists help your child participate independently in daily activities with the help of adaptive equipment, such as quadrupedal canes.
  • Speech and language therapy: Speech and language therapy can help a child suffering with cerebral palsy to speak or communicate in other ways, such as sign language or communication devices (e.g. voice synthesizer).
  • Recreational therapy: Recreational therapy, such as therapeutic horse riding, can help improve a child's motor skills, as well as his or her emotional well-being.

4. Surgery

In some instances, surgery may be required to reduce muscle tightness or to fix bone abnormalities caused by the spasticity of the muscle. The types of surgery that may be offered include:

  • Orthopedic surgery: Children who suffer from severe muscle, bone or joint deformities may need surgery to correct the fault and realign the bones, joints and muscles. Surgery can help improve mobility and decrease pain.
  • Dorsal rhizotomy: If other treatments have failed to ease the condition, surgeons may perform a procedure called "dorsal rhizotomy". This means cutting the nerve endings that serve the spastic muscle. Severing the nerves helps reduce pain and relax the muscle, although it is known to cause numbness.
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