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Cerebral palsy is a commonly misunderstood condition that affects ¾ of a million Americans. Understanding cerebral palsy is the first step in preventing it. First, lets replace some common misconceptions with facts about cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is not a disease, like the chicken pox or measles, and therefore is not communicable. Cerebral palsy is a condition and although there is no cure, it is not progressive, as brain damage does not get worse over time. Secondary factors, such as muscle stiffness, can become more severe as the patient ages.
One of the most important facts about cerebral palsy is that cerebral palsy is preventable. Measures of prevention are increasingly possible today. Tests and prenatal care can prepare a woman and alert her when possible causes arise. Pregnant women are tested routinely for the Rh factor and, if Rh negative, they can be immunized within 72 hours after the birth (or after the pregnancy terminates) and thereby prevent adverse consequences of blood incompatibility in a subsequent pregnancy. If the woman has not been immunized, the consequences of blood incompatibility in the newborn can be prevented by exchange transfusion in the baby. If a newborn baby has jaundice, this can be treated with phytotherapy (light therapy), which breaks down the bilirubin around the brain. Immunization against measles for all women who have not had measles and are susceptible to becoming pregnant is an essential preventative measure.
Other preventative programs as well as facts about cerebral palsy are directed towards the prevention of prematurity; reducing the exposure of pregnant women to virus and other infections; recognition and treatment of bacterial infection of the maternal reproductive and urinary tracts; avoiding unnecessary exposure to X-rays, drugs and medications; and the control of diabetes, anemia and nutritional deficiencies. Of great importance are optimal wellbeing prior to conception, adequate prenatal care, and protecting infants from accidents or injury.
The statistical facts about cerebral palsy also put the condition’s magnitude in better perspective. Currently, there are approximately 764,000 children and adults in the United States that exhibit one or more of the symptoms of cerebral palsy. Each year about 8,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with the condition. In addition, another 1,200 - 1,500 preschool age children are recognized each year to have cerebral palsy, and one child in every 400 is diagnosed with some degree of cerebral palsy.
Of all diagnosed cases of cerebral palsy, congenital cerebral palsy accounts for 70% of diagnosis in children. However, an additional 20% are diagnosed with congenital cerebral palsy due to a brain injury during child delivery. The additional 10% acquire the disorder after birth.
Cerebral palsy numbers also to continue to grow as the survival rate of premature babies increase due to medical advances. These statistical facts about cerebral palsy reflect numbers that will continue to grow. Utilization of the proper preventive measures can deter some cases of cerebral palsy.