Can CP Be Cured?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disruptions to normal movement, posture, balance, and muscle function, usually caused by damage to the brain as it grows. CP is the most common childhood neurological disability, affecting more than 500,000 people in the United States. It is more common in boys than girls and results in varying levels of disability from mild to severe. Children with cerebral palsy may face difficulties speaking and learning in addition to limited mobility. If you care for a child with CP, you probably have many questions to ask and decisions to make.
Is There a Cure for Cerebral Palsy?
One of the things you may wonder about as a parent or caregiver is “can cerebral palsy be cured?” Unfortunately, there is no cure for CP. However, the good news is that CP is not a progressive disorder that gets worse over time, though some of the associated conditions may improve or worsen.
While there is no cure, a variety of treatments are available to address the symptoms caused by the disorder. Early intervention, including therapies and medications, may greatly improve mobility, functioning, and overall quality of life. For example, with proper treatment, more than half of children with cerebral palsy are able to walk independently.
How Is Medication Used to Treat Cerebral Palsy?
Medications may be used to treat the various complications that come with cerebral palsy, including pain, seizures, and mobility limitations. Here are a few of the common drugs used to treat CP symptoms:
- Antispastic muscle relaxants: Doctors may prescribe these medications to treat muscle spasticity, which is a condition in which the muscles become too tight. Often the first medications prescribed, antispastic muscle relaxants may help control painful muscle contractions, improve range of motion, and reduce spasms, among other benefits.
- Anticonvulsant seizure medications: When prescribed correctly, these drugs are used to treat seizures and muscle spasms without making the patient drowsy. Anticonvulsant prescription medicines may help control seizures, but they may have the added benefit of helping to stabilize mood. A more stable mood may reduce the incidence of depression and anxiety among patients with cerebral palsy.
- Anticholinergic medications: This is a class of drugs used to treat involuntary muscle movements. The medications work by blocking the neurotransmitters that cause involuntary muscle movements. Patients taking anticholinergic medications may experience fewer tremors and less muscle stiffness, which may improve mobility and range of motion.
- Antacids, laxatives, and stool softeners: Patients with cerebral palsy often suffer from digestive difficulties due to medications, lack of activity, and nutritional deficits. Drugs to treat constipation and acid reflux may improve quality of life by making the person more comfortable and improve the experience of meals, leading to improved nutrition.
- Sleep aids: Difficulty sleeping is a common co-occurring disorder with cerebral palsy. Sleep aids to treat insomnia help patients get more rest, which contributes to better overall health and wellness. Better sleep also makes the body better able to fight off infections and illnesses.
Though these medications can improve overall well-being, these are not considered a cerebral palsy cure.
What Therapies Might Help Treat Children With Cerebral Palsy?
Depending on the set of disorders the child is experiencing, doctors may recommend a variety of specialized therapies and services. Generally speaking, the earlier treatment starts after diagnosis, the greater the impact on the impairment. Early intervention may also reduce the chances of other conditions developing.
- Physical therapy, including aqua therapies: For many patients, physical therapy (PT) is the first intervention they experience. PT uses exercises to improve strength and flexibility, along with other tools such as heat and massage. Effective PT may help patients reach a greater level of independence.
- Mental health counseling and behavioral therapy: Research shows that children with cerebral palsy may also have some form of diagnosed behavioral disorder, such as self-harm, destructiveness, or aggression. The rate of occurrence of these disorders in the population of children with CP is higher than in the general population. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one form of counseling that seems to work well in helping patients to curb these disruptive behaviors.
- Equine therapy: Also known as therapeutic horseback riding or hippotherapy, equine therapy has been used for more than 80 years. When children with CP participate in regular horseback riding, the health benefits may include improved motor skills, better sensory integration, and greater flexibility and endurance. Researchers believe this may be related to the rhythmic motion of the horse’s gait.
What Is the Best Treatment for Cerebral Palsy?
Since the symptoms and complications of cerebral palsy are different for each person, the most effective treatment for each person is unique as well. Just as there is no cure for CP, there is no single “best” treatment that exists that works the same for everyone. However, the good news is that a plethora of treatments and therapies are available to help you maximize the quality of life and minimize the impact of the disorder.
Cerebral palsy can have a profound impact on a family. If you believe your child’s or loved one’s cerebral palsy was caused by a medical provider’s negligence, contact the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs to see if you have a case.
Claire Surles, RN
Claire comes to JJS after a 10-year career as a labor and delivery nurse. She dedicated her hospital efforts to advocating for families, providing the safest birthing environment possible as Newborn Admission Nurse at UMMC St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. Her passion for helping those who experienced losses at any stage of gestation led to her appointment as Coordinator of the hospital’s ROOTS perinatal loss program. READ FULL BIO