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Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects body movement and muscle coordination. Cerebral palsy does not have a singular cause, like Down syndrome, but is an umbrella term for several symptoms. This condition is caused by brain damage occurring either during pregnancy, during delivery, or shortly after delivery. There are several different types of cerebral palsy, each classified by the way in which they affect the individual. Of the different types, severe athetoid cerebral palsy is one of the less prominent.
Severe athetoid cerebral palsy is a strong form of athetonia, which is marked by slow, writhing involuntary muscle movement. A mixed muscle tone where some are too high and others too low also characterizes severe athetoid cerebral palsy. Severe athetoid cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the basal ganglia, located in the midbrain. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of cerebral palsy patients are affected by severe athetoid cerebral palsy. Severe athetoid cerebral palsy can also be referred to as dyskenetic cerebral palsy.
The slow, writhing movements featured in severe athetoid cerebral palsy usually affect the hands, feet, arms, or legs. In most cases, severe athetoid cerebral palsy can largely affect the muscles of the face and tongue, causing grimacing and drooling. The involuntary and uncontrollable muscle tone fluctuations sometimes affect the whole body. The movements caused by severe athetoid cerebral palsy increase during times of heightened emotional stress yet they disappear completely during sleep.
Increased problems are common with severe athetoid cerebral palsy. With severe athetoid cerebral palsy, the muscles rapidly alternate between floppy and tense. Unwanted movements may be small or big, rapid, irregularly repetitive, random, or jerky. Severe athetoid cerebral palsy can also cause a person to appear restless and constantly moving. During sleep or when fully relaxed is the only time they can remain still.
The fluctuation caused by severe athetoid cerebral palsy results in the inability to hold posture. Children with severe athetoid cerebral palsy often have trouble holding their body in a steady, upright position for sitting or walking. This can delay and even prevent someone with severe cerebral palsy from having any control over his or her mobility.
People with severe athetoid cerebral palsy often have little or no control over facial movements. Severe athetoid cerebral palsy can also affect speech, a condition known as dysarthia. Speech is usually highly affected in every case of severe athetoid cerebral palsy because of increased difficulty controlling the tongue, breathing and vocal chords. Similarly, the person will have difficulty eating and controlling drool.
Severe athetoid cerebral palsy can cause a person to have difficulty holding onto an object, like a pencil or eating utensil, because of the mixed tone of muscles. Severe athetoid cerebral palsy affects a person’s motor skills causing them to work and concentrate harder than usual to get their hand to a certain spot, like scratching their nose. This is also concurrent with big, involuntary movements and is found through the entire body rather than being restricted to a certain area.
Severe athetoid cerebral palsy treatments will vary on the severity of symptoms. In extreme cases the use of muscle relaxers and sedatives can ease muscle contractions to perform physical therapy. Physical therapy must begin soon after diagnosis is made in order to stop muscles from causing bone growth deformities. Daily range of motion exercises will help prevent muscles from growing weak and atrophied or rigidly fixed from contracture. For those with severe athetoid cerebral palsy suffering from dysarthia, speech therapy can help improve swallowing and communication. A speech therapist also can work with the child to learn to use special communication devices like computers with voice synthesizers. A more specialized team of physicians may be necessary to properly treat severe athetoid cerebral palsy.