When cerebral palsy (CP) is not able to be diagnosed through easily identified risk factors, such as prematurity, a lack of blood flow to the developing brain, or infection during development, then genetic cerebral palsy should be considered.

The 20,000 genes that make up our human genome (what is in our DNA) hold the instructions that tell our bodies how to grow and function properly. Changes between one person’s genes and another help determine the body’s basic characteristics, like hair and eye color, to more complex things, such as temperament. These differences in the genetic code, from one person to another, are called “genetic variants.”

Sometimes a change happens in the genetic code that causes disease. This type of change is called a “mutation.” Genetic tests check your child’s DNA to look for these changes.

Genetic Cerebral Palsy: How Do I Know if it’s Genetic?

If the cause of your child’s cerebral palsy, or getting a diagnoses of CP, is not simple or clear, genetic testing could give more information. A simple blood draw is used to collect the DNA needed to check for changes that could help getting a diagnosis.

Development of CP, for some, may be related to genetics, even if there is no family history of the condition. Several different kinds of genetic mutations may lead to cerebral palsy, and different methods are required to detect them. Given the detailed process of genetic testing, it is helpful to have the guidance of a physician familiar with genetic causes of CP, and a genetic counselor who is a professional trained to understand and discuss what is found in the genetic tests.

Identifying a genetic cause of a child’s CP is important for several reasons:

  • Families may understand more of what their child’s future will look like and doctors may be better able to prevent problems before they come up.
  • Understanding what caused a child’s CP can provide closure for family members who might blame themselves for their child’s condition.
  • Ongoing research may identify new treatment options for children with genetic forms of CP.
  • Although rare, some types of cerebral palsy may run in families.

For more information, download our free cerebral palsy tool kit.