What is Athetoid Cerebral Palsy?

The first thing that you should know about this particular classification of CP is that it is also known as dyskinetic CP. It only affects around 10-20% of all cases of CP. What characterizes this classification is the differences in muscle tone. Some of the muscles may be very loose while others are too tight. Spasms often result from this fluctuation. This classification of CP also affects the entire body instead of being localized to a single area.
An interesting factoid about this type of CP is that people afflicted with it are more times than not of higher than average intelligence.
This type of CP can be confused with dystonia that is adult onset. The symptoms are eerily similar. The difference is that while this type of CP is not degenerative, adult onset dystonia is.

Common Causes

This and indeed every classification of CP is caused directly by brain damage. The area of the brain that is damaged in this case is the basal ganglia or the cerebellum. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for movement. More specifically, these are the areas that have the responsibility of receiving and then processing signals from the nerves in order to enable smooth and coordinated movement as well as to enable and maintain body posture. When these areas of the brain are damaged, the results can be random, slow and even involuntary movements.
Brain damage causing this type of CP can occur in many ways. Generally any brain damage causing any type of CP deals with loss of oxygen to the brain while the process of fetal development is still under way. Some of the other ways that this damage can occur are by things like:
• Poor prenatal care
• Head trauma
• Drug and/or alcohol abuse while pregnant
• Bleeding in the brain
• Viral infection during pregnancy

There have been studies conducted that show that this type of CP has a higher than average link to damage in the brain resulting from jaundice. See, if there is an increase of a substance called bilirubin in the blood, brain damage can occur. When bilirubin levels get too high, it causes jaundice. With jaundice, there is a specific type of brain damage that occurs called kernicterus and this also results in a loss of hearing. Ironically, bilirubin levels in the infant can INCREASE as a side effect from certain medications, an Rh factor incompatibility in the blood or infections.

The characteristic of this classification of CP that is most noticeable is movement of the limbs that appears to be uncontrolled, writhing and slow. At times though, even the facial, throat and tongue muscles are affected too. This can lead to drooling or grimacing. Athetoid CP patients may also experience dysarthria which is an issue with controlling the muscles that are necessary for speech. These movements that are uncontrolled may worsen in times of stress and completely disappear when the person is sleeping. Sufferers of this type of CP often find it extremely difficult to maintain posture whether sitting or standing. Also they have issues with even moving their limbs where they would like them to go and even holding on to anything is a challenge.

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