On Monday morning, Microsoft corporation passed a statement that Zain Nadella, son of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Satya Nadella and his wife Anu, died. He was 26 years old and was born with cerebral palsy. Do you know what is cerebral palsy? Cerebral palsy is a large group of motor problems that can affect the movement and muscles of a child. It can lead to damage in the brain and in most cases occurs before birth. The signs of cerebral palsy start showing when the child is 1 or 2 years old. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Puja Grover Kapoor, Paediatric Neurologist & Co-founder of Continua Kids, to know about the early signs of cerebral palsy.
Early warning signs of Cerebral Palsy
The causes of cerebral palsy are varied and include delayed cry at birth (birth asphyxia), prematurity (birth less than 37 weeks of gestation) infection of the brain (meningitis), trauma, genetic, jaundice during the early neonatal period, metabolic causes etc. The early signs of cerebral palsy are:
1. Inability to reach age appropriate motor/ developmental milestones
For example, Inability to hold the neck at 6 months, not sitting at 10 months, or not walking without support at 18 months is one of the early warning signs of cerebral palsy. Other milestones, such as reaching for an object, or fixation and following of objects can also be affected.
2. Excessive tightness or looseness of the body
At times, the leg are so tight that it is difficult to change the diaper. The change in tone of the extremities is due to damage to the brain. Also, at times there is loosening of truncal tone causing inability to sit. In certain specific cases, when injury to the brain is caused by jaundice in the neonatal period the tone of the limbs would be so high that the child is unable to reach for an object or even chew the food, or speak.
3. Infantile spasms/seizures
Infantile spasms are the typical type of seizures which appear like "chokna", or appears as the child is frightened. They generally appear in clusters and just after awakening or getting into the sleep stage. They are mostly missed as they are subtle and lasts for a few seconds. These, if missed for a long time can cause regression of achieved milestones. Other type of abnormal body movement ( seizures) can also be present in the child at once.
During the first year of life, maximum brain growth happens which is represented by age appropriate increase in head size. There occurs lag in increase in head size leading to a small head ( microcephaly).
5. Early handedness
A normally developing child is bidextrous till the age of 2.6 years. Specific hand preference ( either to dominantly use right side or left side) comes after 2.6 years. If a child had a dominance or preference of one side before this age, then that could be because of the weakness of non dominant side. It could be because of the damage on one side of the brain and is called as hemiplegic cerebral palsy.
The early signs are important to recognise as if they are picked early, interventions could be started at an early age, leading to better results. They help in maintaining the stage of treatment for cerebral palsy. Moreover, physiotherapy and occupational therapy can also help in leading to early intervention in the condition.