Cerebral Palsy: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 3/7/2019

Cerebral palsy (CP) is an abnormality the ability to move and control movements. It usually begins at less than 1 year of age. A problem in the brain that may arise due to different factors including infection, prematurity, genetic disorders, or stroke causes cerebral palsy.

The most common signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy are related to problems controlling movement and can include problems with coordination, stiff muscles, overactive reflexes, involuntary movements, muscle weakness, muscle spasms, paralysis of one side of the body, tremor, gait abnormalities and difficulty walking, and physical deformity. Some people with the condition experience associated symptoms like urinary incontinence, loss of muscle control and balance (ataxia), difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), floppy appearance (in an infant), difficulty chewing, and speech difficulty.

Causes of cerebral palsy

Congenital brain damage, abnormal brain development, and a lack of oxygen during birth can cause cerebral palsy. The cause is unknown in many cases.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/7/2019

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