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Cerebral palsy is a very common congenital or acquired disorder that causes coordination problems. There are dozens of different cerebral palsy types, but they all share basic traits, such as some degree of abnormal muscle movement and tone. Doctors usually classify patients' disorders into one of four general cerebral palsy types: spastic, dyskinetic, hypotonic, or mixed. It is important for medical professionals and patients to understand the different types in order to create the best symptom management and physical rehabilitation plans.
Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form of the disorder, comprising about 75 percent of all diagnosed cases. The defining characteristic of spastic cerebral palsy is unusually high tension in muscles, which makes it difficult or impossible to bend, relax, and control muscles. There are several sub-types of spastic cerebral palsy, classified according to which muscle groups are affected. Hemiplegia predominantly affects one side of the body more than the other, while diplegia impairs the legs and hips more than the upper body. Spastic quadriplegia refers to high muscle tension in all four extremities, and occasionally includes the neck and face.
Individuals who suffer from dyskinetic cerebral palsy can experience severe muscle twitches and lack of coordination. Like the spastic variety, there are many dyskinetic cerebral palsy types. People with ataxic symptoms typically experience hand and leg tremors that make it difficult to perform tasks that require precise motor movements, such as typing or turning pages in a book. Patients with athetoid and choreoathetoid cerebral palsy occasionally have trouble controlling voluntary muscle movements, and spontaneous involuntary responses can cause their legs or arms to jerk or writhe.
Hypotonic cerebral palsy is one of the least common cerebral palsy types, but symptoms are often the most serious. It can be described as the opposite of spastic cerebral palsy: there is very little or no tone and tension in the muscles. Infants are born with very floppy neck, arm, and leg muscles, and their growth is usually slow and limited. Due to weakness in the jaws and neck, patients often have difficulty breathing and swallowing.
Many patients cannot be classified in one of the specific categories because diagnostic findings show a mixture of two or more cerebral palsy types. Mixed cerebral palsy is usually the result of injury to multiple parts of the brain rather than a specific region. Most people with mixed cerebral palsy experience a range of spastic and dyskinetic symptoms, but hypotonic symptoms may also be present.