Cerebral Palsy

From a medical standpoint, a child’s early years are some of the most important years of their lives – especially when it comes to the development of their brains. One medical condition – Cerebral Palsy – can occur before, during, or right after birth, and is usually caused by a brain injury or malformation due to the brain still being underdeveloped. As a result, this type of damage to the brain can impact a child’s motor skills, in addition to their muscle control and coordination, reflexes, as well as their balance and posture.

There are different reasons why brain damage that results in Cerebral Palsy may occur. This includes prenatal disturbance of the migration of the brain cells, inadequate protective covering/insulation (known as myelin) that aid in the transmission of the brain cells, ruptured brain cells during the birthing process, or infections or trauma that are damaging to the brain. How Cerebral Palsy affects a child is dependent on the severity of the injury, the type of injury, and when the injury takes place.

Severe physical impairment that results in the use of a wheelchair is not at all uncommon in those with Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy can affect the movement and function of different limbs (such as the arms or legs.) Due to the muscles that are around the mouth, a child with Cerebral Palsy can also lose their ability to speak. It’s also not uncommon for the muscles to shake, twitch or become stiff. Other complications can also occur as a result of Cerebral Palsy, such as visual impairments and seizures.

In order to determine why your child has Cerebral Palsy, family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary, as well as neurologists and radiologists will put together an array of tests, such as medical imaging scans (CTs and MRIs), lab tests, as well as any other findings. Medical imaging and other tests can help to determine just how much brain damage has occurred as well as the type of brain damage that is involved. Once this is figured out, these physicians will then turn their focus to the impairments and coming up with a plan of action in terms of treatment/therapy.

Both children and adults with Cerebral Palsy will often require long-term care. For example, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy to help with mobility, fine motor skills, and communication. Medication will also be prescribed to treat some of the health conditions that come along with Cerebral Palsy. For example, seizures will be treated with anti-convulsant medications. Botox is also a method of treatment that can be used to reduce muscle spasticity, though this is temporary and usually needs to be repeated. Orthopedic surgery can also be preformed to lengthen tendons, which enables easier movement.

For more information on Cerebral Palsy and to find out what kind of programs or services might be available to you, visit the Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia at www.bccerebralpalsy.com or e-mail info@bccerebralpalsy.com.

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Canadians Living With Disabilities

As a general practitioner in Vancouver, Dr. Ali Ghahary is trained to care for patients living with complex conditions and medical needs, including persons with disabilities. Over 15 percent (more than 1 billion) of the world’s population currently lives with a disability – that accounts for over 3.8 million Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 – a number that continues to rise.

wheelchair-1819053_1280The term “disability” can be used to describe any cognitive, sensory, mental or physical condition that causes social barriers and/or results in a severely limited ability for one to perform common, everyday, routine tasks (such as personal hygiene and cooking, in addition to attending school or work), and can sometimes require the need for daily assistance, either by a friend, a family member or in-home nursing care.

There are several different types of disabilities, all of which vary in severity. Below are just a few examples.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism is a lifelong disorder that is usually present from early childhood and is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Currently, it is the fastest growing neurological disorder in Canada, affecting 1 in 68 children. Children with autism often have difficulties with social interaction and communication, as well as neurological issues such as mood disorders (anxiety) and hyperactivity.

Down Syndrome
Cells that divide abnormally cause Down Syndrome, leading to physical and cognitive impairments, as well as developmental disabilities. In Canada, 1 in every 700 babies are born with down syndrome. Women who become pregnant at a later age are at a higher risk of giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome in comparison to younger mothers.

Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is a condition that affects muscle tone and movement. Motor skills can also be affected, causing difficulty speaking, loss of bladder and/or bowel control, the ability to eat, as well as trouble breathing. It is caused by brain damage that occurs before or during birth, but can also occur during the first few years of a child’s life – usually between the ages of 3 and 5. There are over 60,000 Canadians living with Cerebral Palsy today.

Along with Vancouver physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary providing ongoing medical care to individuals living with disabilities, there are also several organizations around Vancouver and across British Columbia that are specifically designed towards providing necessary care, education and continued support to persons with disabilities, such as Disability Alliance BC (formerly known as the BC Coalition of People With Disabilities.)