• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Experts make case for cerebral palsy management in Nigeria

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In the past, information on the many faces of cerebral palsy (CP), a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development were scarce until research to determine its causes and effective ways to treat it unravelled this medical condition.

While CP is usually associated with brain damage that occurs before or during a child’s birth, many families whose children are affected by this medical condition are unaware that this can degenerate into other health issues, including vision, hearing, speech problems and learning disabilities.

With no cure for CP, but treatment, therapy, special equipment, and in some cases, surgery required to assist a child living with the condition, experts have called for increased awareness and counselling of parents/guardians of children with CP to support a child with such medical challenge.

Jumoke Smith, head of department, Isolo General Hospital, said that cerebral palsy usually is caused by factors that disrupt normal development of the brain before birth. Smith disclosed that a number of babies develop brain injuries in the first months or years of life that can result in cerebral palsy.

“Asphyxia (lack of oxygen) during labour and delivery, severe jaundice, blood diseases (such as Rhesus factor incompatibility between the blood of the mother and her foetus), as well as physical and metabolic trauma of being born, are certain risk factors that makes it more likely that a baby will develop CP. Early signs of CP show that some children with this condition may have delays in learning to roll over, sit, crawl or walk.

“Parents should contact their healthcare provider if they see a child more than two months old who has difficulty controlling her head when picked up and stiff legs that cross or ‘scissors’ when picked up; a child more than 6 months old who reaches with only one hand while keeping the other in a fist; a child more than 10 months old who crawls by pushing off with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg; a child more than 12 months old who cannot crawl or stand without support,” Smith explained during a public lecture on Cerebral Palsy organised by Cerebral Palsy Centre (Cp Centre), Lagos.

Nonye Nweke, founder, executive director, CP Centre, disclosed that the problem of CP is compounded in Nigeria where inadequate facilities and lack of trained manpower often make it difficult for parents to find reasonable and affordable options for managing such children, resulting in high infant mortality rate and untold hardship to parents who lack proper understanding of the condition.

Nweke stated that a multi-disciplinary approach is required to manage a child that develops cerebral palsy as there’s currently no cure but a variety of resources and therapies can provide help and improve the quality of life for kids with CP.

“A team of healthcare professionals (paediatricians, physicians, educators, social workers, nurses, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and psychologists) is required to work with the child and family to identify the child’s needs and create an individualised treatment plan to assist such child reach his/her maximum potential,” Nweke said.

As the child begins physical therapy soon after diagnosis, Nweke pointed out that therapy improves motor skills (such as sitting and walking), muscle strength and helps prevent contractures (shortening of muscles that limits joint movement).

Alexander Chiejina