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Causes Of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

About Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, which is also known by the name of Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy, is a type of a movement disorder occurring as a result of damage to the brain during the developing stage before the birth of the child. Athetoid Cerebral Palsy is characterized by abnormal involuntary movements and children with this condition alternate between hypertonia and hypotonia.

While hypertonia causes the muscles to become stiff and tensed hypotonia causes the muscles to become floppy and flaccid. This irregularity in the muscle tone causes the characteristic symptoms of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy. The main presenting feature of a child with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy is involuntary movements of the hands, feet, arms, and legs. This makes it difficult for the child to hold and grasp objects. It also makes it difficult for the child to walk normally.

The main focus of treatment for Athetoid Cerebral Palsy is to address the various disabilities that the child deals with, by therapy, medicines, and even at times surgery. The physician formulates the best treatment based on the symptoms exhibited by the child for treating Athetoid Cerebral Palsy.

There are different types of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy namely dystonia characterized by involuntary slow movement of the arm or leg, chorea which is characterized by sudden involuntary movements of the fingers and face, athetosis characterized by sluggish movements of the fingers and face. Ataxia, rigidity, and dyskinesia are also conditions which can be seen in children with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy.

Causes Of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

Causes Of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

The fundamental cause for the development of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy is damage to the vital structures of the brain during the development stages. This damage is either done in the basal ganglia or in the cerebellum, or both. The function of the basal ganglia is to coordinate voluntary movements. Hence any damage done to the basal ganglia will automatically affect the ability of the child to move any part of the body voluntarily presenting a classic case of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy.

The basal ganglia also regulate thinking and learning and thus any damage to this structure of the brain inadvertently affects the overall learning and thinking ability of the child.

Coming to the cerebellum, the function of this structure is to regulate coordination of movements and thus is extremely essential for fine motor skills and balance of a child. Any damage to the cerebellum will affect both fine motor skills and balance of the child again classic for Athetoid Cerebral Palsy. The cerebellum also plays a vital role in cognitive functions of a child. Thus, damage to the cerebellum will also result in the child being cognitively compromised.

So, what can cause damage to these two vital structures of the brain? There may be many reasons but the main cause for damage to the basal ganglia and the cerebellum during the developing stage of the brain is infections like meningitis, any sort of trauma to the fetus which may affect the development of the brain, and lack of adequate oxygen may result in damage to the structures of the brain ultimately causing Athetoid Cerebral Palsy.

Apart from the causes of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy mentioned above there are also certain risk factors which may predispose a child to Athetoid Cerebral Palsy. These risk factors are premature birth, infantile jaundice, and in some cases even blood clotting within the placenta of the mother may also result in increasing the risk of a child developing Athetoid Cerebral Palsy.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Cerebral Palsy https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/index.html
  2. MedlinePlus – Cerebral Palsy https://medlineplus.gov/cerebralpalsy.html
  3. Mayo Clinic – Cerebral Palsy https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cerebral-palsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20353999
  4. Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences – Athetoid Cerebral Palsy: An Overview https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3723801/

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 8, 2023

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