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Medications for Cerebral Palsy Review

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If you are a loved one has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the number of medications commonly prescribed can be overwhelming. Take a look at the medications for cerebral palsy below and review the side effects and alternative options available.

Cerebral palsy is a condition affecting about 500,000 people in the United States, according to the CDC. Cerebral palsy is usually caused by brain injuries during the normal development of a child. Usually, the condition is not caused by anything the parent did, but rather by simple problems during normal development. The condition is incurable, but with the right treatment, babies born with cerebral palsy can live healthy, normal lives and expect to have a normal life expectancy.

However, medications and special diet and lifestyle changes will be required to prevent the negative health effects of cerebral palsy. Most cerebral palsy is treated with a variety of medications. These medications are usually prescribed to relieve some of the symptoms associated with cerebral palsy, such as muscle control issues and seizures.

Additionally, many individuals with CP find that supplementing with vitamins and minerals can help control some of the minor symptoms associated with the condition, like nutrient deficiencies and bone health. Read more about a review of the medications used for cerebral palsy below.

How Medications Help

Cerebral palsy is a condition that has a wide range of symptoms. Some individuals with CP have extremely mild and almost unnoticeable symptoms. Some have severe movement problems, seizures, and other extreme medical issues. However, most children and adults with cerebral palsy will have to take some form of medication to control their symptoms either temporarily or permanently throughout life.

Common Medications Used for Cerebral Palsy

Because CP can cause a wide variety of symptoms, every person with CP will have a different combination of conditions and medications. Some medications are prescribed for short-term medical events while others are prescribed for long-term use. Medications will be adjusted over time throughout a CP patient's life.

Many individuals with cerebral palsy are given medication for the following conditions:

Spasticity

Individuals with cerebral palsy typically have trouble controlling their movements. This will cause muscle spasms and stiff muscles that make injuries common. Medications to treat spasticity usually include medications given orally or by injection. Common medications prescribed to treat spasticity include muscle relaxants and benzodiazepines, like Valium and Baclofen.

Research suggests that injected Baclofen may be better for some individuals with CP because there is a reduced risk of developing a tolerance to the medication. Nerve blockers are commonly prescribed to treat localized muscle spasms while Botox is also used as a local spasm blocker.

Common Medications for CP

 

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Nerve blocks
  • Baclofen
  • Anticholinergics
  • Botox
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Benzodiazepines

 


Side effects from these medications include:

 

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Drowsiness 


Involuntary Movement

 

One form of cerebral palsy, athetoid cerebral palsy, is characterized by low muscle tone. This often results in CP patients making involuntary movements. Medications are used to keep this form of movement to a minimum. The most common kind of medication prescribed for this condition are Anticholinergic drugs. These medications block nerve impulses and can reduce drooling.

Side effects from these medications include:

 

  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Incontinence
  • Dizziness

 

Seizures

Many individuals with cerebral palsy also suffer from seizures. Many individuals with CP also suffer from epilepsy. The Centers for Disease Control found that 41 percent of children with CP also suffered from some form of epilepsy. Most cases of seizures are treated with barbiturates or benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are more commonly given and include Dilantin, Valium, and Klonopin. These medications can also fight anxiety and relax the muscles.

Side effects from these medications include:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

Acid Reflux

Although not directly caused by cerebral palsy, acid reflux is a common side effect. Acid reflux is caused by weakened muscles in the esophagus, which is the result of CP. Over the counter acid reflux medication, such as Zantac, are often prescribed to treat this conditions.

Side effects from these medications include:

  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Tender breast tissue

Behavior Disorders

Since cerebral palsy is a brain disorder, sometimes it can also cause behavior problems in children. ADHD is a common comorbid condition with cerebral palsy. Typically, ADHD medications like Adderall and Ritalin are prescribed to children with ADHD.

Side effects from these medications include:

  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia

Is Medication Necessary for Cerebral Palsy?

Most parents are concerned with placing their children on long-term medication that could have a host of side effects. However, for some cases of CP medication will provide a better quality of life for the child. The best way to determine if there are any alternative treatment options is to discuss your unique case with your doctor. She will be able to help you determine if all medications prescribed are necessary, if you can cut down on doses, or possibly get off of some medications.

Alternative Treatment Options for Cerebral Palsy

Most individuals with cerebral palsy also require additional therapies to regain control of muscles, speech, eating ability, motor skills, and muscle tone. Alternative therapies are common in CP in addition to medication. With time, it may be possible to replace some medications with alternative treatments, but cutting medications out without the guidance of a doctor is ill advised.

Natural remedies for cerebral palsy are usually used as supplements to traditional medication and are designed to help the side effects of cerebral palsy rather than the condition itself. For example, supplements can be used to boost nutrient intake or a parent may want to try natural supplements to improve brain function. The following natural treatments for cerebral palsy may be beneficial for some families and should be discussed as an option with your healthcare provider:

While there are no actual cures for cerebral palsy, natural remedies can help support brain and muscle function. Likewise, a number of therapies use holistic approaches to treat CP.

Some of the best treatments for cerebral palsy include Echinacea, fish oil, acupuncture, and physical therapy.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is crucial for health in individuals with CP and healthy individuals. Vitamin C is used to produce collagen, which is a vital component in tendons, ligaments, bone, and blood vessels. Since pulling muscles and dislodging joints is common for CP patients, a healthy dose of vitamin C is essential for protecting the long-term effects of CP. Additionally, vitamin C is one of the main antioxidants used in the body to fight aging and cancer. Adults with CP often age faster, starting in middle age, which can cause health problems to show up sooner. Keeping vitamin C intake higher will help prevent individuals with CP from showing the signs of aging as quickly and will promote healthy cell turnover.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for the immune system and healthy bones and muscles. Studies indicate that individuals who have CP are often lower in vitamin D than average, in part because they tend to go outside less and also in part because some medications, like seizure medication, make it harder for the body to absorb vitamin D. Over time, this leads to weak and brittle bones that are prone to breaking and cause pain throughout the body. Supplementing with vitamin D will prevent some of these issues from arising.

Thiamin

Thiamin (also called vitamin B1) is an organic compound required for healthy muscles. Vitamin B1 is typically responsible for producing health, strong muscles and supplementing with this vitamin can reduce muscle pain and weakness.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is used throughout the body. It is particularly useful for controlling the nervous system and boosting the immune system. B6 is also necessary to carry iron throughout the body.

Calcium

Calcium is present in every system in the body. 99 percent of calcium is found in the bones. A lack of calcium will cause brittle, weak bones that break easily. Calcium will also boost blood health by relaxing blood vessels, controlling nerve impulses, and preventing involuntary movement. Magnesium Magnesium is an essential mineral to the bones, hormonal system, and in cell communication. 60 percent of the magnesium in the body is found in the bones, indicating just how important this mineral is to bone health.

Zinc

Zinc is a trace element that boosts the immune system and triggers healthy development in children. Zinc also controls neurological function and can temper some of the worse side effects of behavioral conditions associated with cerebral palsy.

Boron

Boron is another trace element that is essential for the proper absorption of calcium and magnesium. Without boron, the body cannot absorb all of the calcium and magnesium it needs. Boron is responsible for the growth and development of bones. Some studies have found that enough boron in the diet can help reduce the symptoms of arthritis and improve muscle control and hand eye coordination.

GABA

GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps nerve cells communicate effectively. For individuals with CP, this means that the compound reduces irritability, anxiety, and depression. Supplementing with GABA has also been found to have some benefit for individuals with epilepsy and ADHD.

Echinacea

Echinacea is an herbal supplement that boosts the immune system and promote healthy blood circulation. For individuals with CP, Echinacea is effective at soothing spastic muscles, encourages muscle movement, and improves neural communication. Ginger Ginger is an immune booster that also improves circulation. Ginger can boost the nutrient absorption of other vitamins and boosts oxygen levels in the brain.

Fish Oil

Fish oil contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids improve communication between nerve impulses and encourage the growth of healthy brain tissue. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly effective at reducing some of the behavioral issues associated with CP, such as ADHD.

Alternative Treatments for Cerebral Palsy are Available

CP usually comes with a heavy dose of medication for life. But with physical therapy and medication use over time, it may be possible to wean off of certain medications and use alternative treatments instead. Additionally, many doctors encourage the use of supplements in addition to medication to fill in any nutrient gaps caused by the continual use of medications and the nutrient deficiencies that often come along with cerebral palsy.

Next Article: Nutrition for Cerebral Palsy