Unfortunately, there is no cure for cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy treatment can help patients to develop the skills needed to function to the highest degree possible, however. With comprehensive treatment, many patients can achieve high levels of independence. Treatment may also help patients to deal with pain, see, hear, develop the muscles, and control many other aspects of the disorder. Depending on the specific symptoms that are present, cerebral palsy treatments may vary.
Cerebral Palsy Treatment Specialists
A team approach should always be used to treat cerebral palsy. Primary care doctors, nurses, and dentists should help to handle the basic medical issues associated with cerebral palsy and refer patients to specialists as needed. Neurologists, gastroenterologists, and pulmonologists should be consulted as needed to treat symptoms stemming from brain and nervous system abnormalities, respiratory complications, and digestive disorders. A team of therapists including physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists should be consulted to help develop muscles and functions in most cases of cerebral palsy. Surgeons may also be a part of the treatment team if surgery is necessary.
Cerebral Palsy Medications
Medications may be helpful in controlling some aspects of cerebral palsy. Pain medication may help to mitigate pain, freeing patients to focus more completely on participating in other areas of treatment. Medications may also be given to control seizures, muscle tremors, and spasms. If needed, medications may help patients to control drooling.
Surgery for Cerebral Palsy Complications
Surgery cannot help with most cerebral palsy features, but may be helpful in controlling secondary issues such as gastroesophogeal reflux. If joint contractures are present, surgery can help to release these, which may alleviate discomfort and correct malformations. Surgery can be done to place feeding tubes if other treatments do not work to assist patients with eating. In some cases, performing surgery to cut certain nerves may help to reduce patients’ pain and gain better control over involuntary muscle movements.
Medical Devices for Cerebral Palsy
Depending on the types of physical symptoms that the patient experiences as a result of cerebral palsy, medical devices may be helpful. For patients that cannot walk, wheelchairs, walkers, leg braces, and crutches may help patients to mobilize independently. Muscle and bone braces may help prevent improper growth of limbs and issues with joints and cartilage. If vision problems are present, glasses may help patients to see. Hearing aids may help with hearing impairments.
Cerebral Palsy Home Care
Patients will usually need to perform regular exercises at home as recommended by physicians or physical therapists. The home may need to be set up in certain ways to make mobility easier for cerebral palsy patients and to prevent injury. Cerebral palsy patients may need to pay closer attention to diet and nutrition than individuals that do not have the condition to prevent digestive disorders and further complications from developing.
Physical and Occupational Therapy
With the help of physical therapists, cerebral palsy patients may develop muscle tone that can help to minimize some of the physical limitations of the disorder. With effort, some patients learn to walk, write, and perform daily activities independently. Occupational therapists can help patients learn to dress, eat without assistance, and other functions that may be difficult because of motor control issues. As patients begin to develop these skills, confidence often grows and other treatments become more effective.
Education for Cerebral Palsy Patients
If there are not intellectual impairments or serious physical disabilities present, cerebral palsy patients often benefit from attending regular schools. If needed, special schools may help cerebral palsy patients to develop the skills needed to move into mainstream schools. Special schools may also help patients with more severe cognitive impairments or learning disabilities to learn and progress.
Emotional Therapy and Support
Cerebral palsy can be emotionally taxing for patients. Consulting with a therapist to work through emotions or joining a cerebral palsy support group can help patients to gain confidence and learn about different techniques that may be helpful in daily life. Support groups can also be helpful for parents and family members, as burnout and stress are common. Some form of emotional support or therapy is highly recommended and can complement other types of cerebral palsy treatment.
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“What You Need to Know About Cerebral Palsy.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Mar. 2014. Web. 4 Feb. 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/Features/CerebralPalsy/index.html>