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What are the different types of cerebral palsy?

North Carolina parents dealing with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy in their children might wonder about the condition. CP is considered the most common disability related to motor skills in children, caused by abnormal development of the brain or damage occurring in the developing brain of a child. Symptoms can vary widely in severity from one child to another. Some children experience intellectual disabilities in connection with CP.

There are four main types of cerebral palsy, including spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic and mixed. Classification is based on issues such as muscle stiffness, movement control, balance and coordination. Spastic CP is the most common type, affecting four out of five individuals diagnosed with some form of the condition. Muscles are stiff, making movements very awkward. The part of the body affected is further used to distinguish the type of CP as spastic diplegia, spastic hemiplegia, or spastic quadriplegia. Dyskinetic CP involves difficulties in controlling the movement of extremities. Jerky or writhing movements are common. In ataxic CP, balance and coordination can be a problem. In many cases, individuals display several of these types of CP and are categorized as having mixed cerebral palsy.

Although cerebral palsy is often viewed as a birth injury, it is helpful to understand that it can happen prior to or after birth as well. A lack of oxygen during birth might contribute to CP, but this is believed to be a factor in only a small fraction of the cases. It is estimated that up to 90 percent of cases are congenital, occurrences attributed to pre-birth or delivery issues.

A family faced with a diagnosis of CP in a child may wonder how the condition occurred. If a physician's explanation doesn't make sense, it may be helpful to seek a second opinion to eliminate or identify medical errors that may have contributed to the condition.

Source: CDC, "Facts About Cerebral Palsy", November 14, 2014

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