Associated Conditions of Cerebral Palsy

People with cerebral palsy are often beset with other, associated conditions. Sometimes these conditions stem from the same brain injury that caused cerebral palsy; other times they are secondary effects of cerebral palsy itself. Cerebral palsy, in simple terms, is a brain condition that affects muscle tone and muscle control. Some associated conditions of cerebral palsy such as incontinence, drooling, and dysarthria are related to this struggle to control the body’s muscles.

Learning Disorders and Mental Impairment

Roughly two-thirds of those who suffer from cerebral palsy also have mental impairment to some degree. Some people develop slight learning disorders, while others may endure severe mental retardation. Although mental impairment affects the majority of people with cerebral palsy, a great many who have the condition have normal to above average intelligence. It is important to remember that the difficulties people with cerebral palsy have communicating are often linked to physical, not mental handicap.

Failure to Thrive

Failure to thrive (FTT) is a term used to describe delayed or slow growth in children who are receiving adequate nutrition and care. Many children with cerebral palsy are affected by FTT. FTT can normally be controlled through dietary changes and stress management.


Poor muscle control can interfere with a person’s ability to contain his or her own waste. Muscle exercises, special undergarments, biofeedback mechanisms, surgery, and drugs may stop incontinence from interfering with a person’s normal activities.


Drooling affects one-third of all cerebral palsy patients, and is caused by difficulties swallowing, poor posture, lack of tongue control, and impaired muscle control in the mouth. Drooling can pose health risks to the patient. Specifically, he or she may be susceptible to dehydration, infection, and skin rashes.


Dysphagia, or “difficulty swallowing,” affects some people with cerebral palsy. Symptoms mostly center on difficulty with normal eating functions such as chewing and swallowing, as well as moving food inside the mouth and down the esophagus. Patients with severe dysphagia may suffer from malnutrition.


Dysarthria is a speech disorder caused by in-coordination of the muscles used for speech. The ability to speak clearly is something many take for granted, but the mechanics of the process are extremely complex. To speak, a person must control breathing and movement of the tongue, jaw, and lips. The soft palate must correctly direct airflow, and the voice box must function properly.

Impaired Sense of Touch

To varying degrees, some cerebral palsy patients have trouble sensing pain, pressure, and different textures. Some patients’ impaired sense of touch prevents them from distinguishing between objects.

Seizures and Epilepsy

Roughly half of those with cerebral palsy also have seizures. During a seizure a person may freeze, fall to the ground, have spasms, lose consciousness, hallucinate, or convulse. Although seizures can be frightening, they are usually not harmful. Patients who experience recurrent seizures are considered epileptic.

Impaired Vision

Strabismus, also called crossed eyes and walleye, is often seen in cerebral palsy patients. Strabismus results from a lack of muscle control, and thus focusing capacity, in the eyes. With early treatment or surgery, vision loss can usually be prevented. Hemianopia, blindness or poor vision in one eye, may occur in patients who are paralyzed on the right or left side of their body.

Poor Hearing

Some people with cerebral palsy also have poor hearing. Hearing aids can usually be used to help people who have difficulty hearing.

Different symptoms and problems connected with cerebral palsy may arise as a patient grows older, but in most cases cerebral palsy does not worsen over time. People with cerebral palsy should meet regularly with their physicians. Keeping on top of small changes can prevent further complications and illnesses.

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