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What Factors Affect Cerebral Palsy Life Expectancy?

The severity of someone's cerebral palsy can affect his life expectancy.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
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Many people think of cerebral palsy as a single condition. In reality, the term is used to describe a group of disorders in which problems with the brain adversely affect a person’s ability to move, balance, and sit or stand straight. Unfortunately, cerebral palsy can also contribute to a more serious problem — shortened life expectancy. While many people who have cerebral palsy enjoy normal lifespans, some factors may make life expectancy much shorter than usual. Among the factors that can lower cerebral palsy life expectancy are the severity of the condition, mobility, and complications and related health issues, such as seizure disorders.

Cerebral palsy typically develops early in childhood, causing children to have coordination and posture difficulties. A person with this condition may have muscles that are floppy and incapable of performing as usual or stiff muscles that inhibit movement. In addition to problems with walking and balancing, a person with cerebral palsy may also drool excessively and have trouble with speaking or swallowing. Sometimes such things as writing and dressing are difficult as well, and some with these disorders also experience tremors. Typically cerebral palsy is caused by conditions that occur before a child as born, such as infections that affect the fetus. Sometimes physical injury during childbirth can be at fault, and some people may develop cerebral palsy — caused by brain damage or infection — after birth.

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Cerebral palsy life expectancy may depend on the type and severity of the condition. For example, a person who has the spastic form of the disorder has muscles that are very stiff. Patients with severe spasticity may have shorter life expectancies. Those who have moderate forms of cerebral palsy may expect to live for much longer. Those with very mild cases may have similar life expectancies to those who do not have the condition.

Mobility seems to play a major role in cerebral palsy life expectancy as well. Those who need repeated surgeries to correct mobility issues or spastic movements may have shorter life expectancies. Likewise, the ability to move and have an active lifestyle appears to affect life expectancy; those who have severely impaired mobility may have shorter lifespans. This isn’t limited just to walking, however. Mobility also includes sitting up and rolling over as well.

Complications can also influence cerebral palsy life expectancy. For example, a person who has difficulty swallowing and eating may develop malnutrition, which may shorten his life expectancy. Those who have severe seizure disorders and other serious health problems associated with cerebral palsy may have shorter average life spans as well.

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