Cerebral palsy (CP) co-conditions are conditions that are more commonly seen in people with a CP diagnosis. There are many co-conditions related to having an early brain injury that causes cerebral palsy, but not everyone will have these symptoms|conditions.
There are also secondary conditions in cerebral palsy, and these are conditions that occur as a result of the effects of having cerebral palsy on the musculoskeletal system (bones and muscles). Some clinicians refer to a portion of secondary conditions as “downstream” conditions, because they occur as a result of having cerebral palsy, and often over time (ie contractures or hips dislocation).
The boundaries sometimes are blurry between what is categorized as a co-condition and what may be viewed as part of having cerebral palsy. For this reason, our website includes many of the co-conditions and secondary conditions listed below under the cerebral palsy health topics section. Our co-conditions list presents disorders that frequently may be diagnosed or thought of separately as a primary condition in people without cerebral palsy (epilepsy, ADHD and autism spectrum disorder). Some categorical decisions have also been made in this section for navigation purposes.
Types of Conditions Seen with Cerebral Palsy
Common Co-Conditions of Cerebral Palsy:
- Pain– The source of pain will vary individually but could be caused by hip dislocation, dystonia, musculoskeletal pain and sources unrelated to having cerebral palsy. Caregivers should observe for sudden changes in personality, or movements, especially in individuals who are non-verbal, or do not communicate.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder– A developmental disorder that affects behavior and communication.
- Sleep Disorders– Problems with sleeping. This maybe the result of aches and pains, not able to get comfortable, constipation or reflux may cause a lack of sleep.
- Speech Impairment– Delay or lack of ability to speak.
- Early or Delayed Puberty– Developing, or ‘maturing’, earlier than age appropriate, or later than expected.
- Visual Processing Disorders, CVI– Problems with how the brain organizes visual information coming in from the eyes
- Epilepsy– Refers to a name that covers several types of seizure disorders
- Hydrocephalus-Swelling of the brain cause by an enlargement of the brain’s fluid filled spaces or ventricles. It is caused by an imbalance in the production and absorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
- Intellectual Disability- Slower development of skills and learning with limitations in cognition (the process of acquiring new knowledge) and adaptive behavior.
- Learning Disorders- Problems with how a person receives and processes information in order to learn.
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder)– The most common neurodevelopment disorder in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy which often presents as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
- Hearing Impairments- Difficulty or inability to hear.
Secondary Conditions Related to the Muscles and Bones:
- Pain-There can be musculoskeletal pain from dystonia, overuse, contractors, hip dislocation, scoliosis and more.
- Constipation– Inability to have a bowel movement.
- Contractures– When the muscles are stiff and very hard to move.
- Drooling– When saliva pools in the front of the mouth or back of the throat.
- Hip Dysplasia– When the hip ball and hip socket do not line up.
- Incontinence– Difficulty with control of the bladder, bowels or both.
- Ocular Impairments– Disorders of the eye.
- Scoliosis– When the spine curves to one side or the other.
- Difficulty Swallowing and/or Drinking- Result of the muscles having problems working together to control these functions.
Each person with cerebral palsy is unique and may present with a few of these conditions, or several.
If you have questions, or concerns, they should always be discussed with medical team members to ensure all of the needs of the child or adult with cerebral palsy are being met and addressed.
The information from this page appears in our free and downloadable cerebral palsy tool kit.
- National Institute of Mental Health, T. (2018, March). Autism spectrum disorder. Retrieved June 05, 2021, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/
- Miller, F., & Bachrach, S. J. (2017). Page 71. In Cerebral palsy a complete guide for caregiving (2nd ed., p. 71). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. doi:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2083126/
- Glader, L. (2019). Children and youth with complex cerebral palsy: Care and management (p. 218) (1399979700 1021047818 R. D. Stevenson, Author). London: Mac Keith Press. doi:https://www.mackeith.co.uk/shop/complex-cerebral-palsy-care-and-management/