Cerebral Palsy: Does it Get Worse with Age?
Cerebral palsy is a condition that causes permanent movement disorders. Depending on the type of cerebral palsy a person has, and its severity, symptoms may include difficulties with coordination and balance, excessively stiff muscles, weak muscles, and involuntary movement of muscles. Other issues, including problems with speaking, swallowing, hearing, vision, and seizures may also be present.
Cerebral palsy occurs when the brain develops abnormally or when it is damaged in areas that are responsible for movement, posture, and balance. Unfortunately, cerebral palsy commonly occurs as a result of preventable birth injuries in which physicians, nurses, and other health care providers present during delivery or shortly after birth fail in their legal obligations to provide an acceptable standard of care. These failures, such as not recognizing fetal distress, can result in oxygen deprivation, brain damage, and cerebral palsy.
Children with cerebral palsy, as well and their families, can face many life-long challenges. Often, these challenges will require medical care, accommodations, and specialized treatment or therapy. As the condition typically presents itself early on in a child’s life, within the first year or two, there is a great deal of information available about helping children and their families cope with the challenges they face. As such, many people are not fully aware of how cerebral palsy and aging relate.
The truth of the matter is that cerebral palsy is a non-degenerative condition, which means that the condition itself will not get worse with age. The brain damage that occurs during pregnancy or birth will remain the same throughout a person’s life. Today, thanks in part to medical advancements, many people with cerebral palsy live long lives. While the condition may not worsen, there are unique concerns for people with cerebral palsy as they age and cope with their lifetime disability.
People with cerebral palsy spend their entire lives battling their disability, which means they can start feeling the effects of aging earlier than others who do not have to live around physical impairments. For example, people cerebral palsy commonly face the following physical problems as they get older:
- Chronic pain – Living an active life despite a disability can put a lot of strain on one’s body, which is why people with cerebral palsy most commonly experience increased and chronic pain as they age. This includes pain in the neck, back, hips, and knees, as well as early development of arthritis.
- Problems with mobility – As much as a quarter of people with cerebral palsy who were able to walk at young ages do not walk when they get older. This is often due to increased pain or arthritis, as well as convenience that comes with using a wheelchair.
- Falls – Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Americans, and it can be a particular concern for aging people with cerebral palsy. Problems with balance, coordination, and decreased mobility can increase risks of falling.