Cerebral palsy is often described as a single disability or condition. In reality it is a group of symptoms and conditions related to brain damage, movement, muscle strength and tension, balance, coordination, and other similar factors. While everyone with cerebral palsy has similarities there are many more unique differences from one person to the next.
Girls and women, for instance, may have special challenges, needs, risk factors, and symptoms, according to two new studies. Better care and interventions can be developed when research uncovers these unique facets of living with cerebral palsy for certain populations.
Facebook Studies Single out Women’s CP Challenges
One of the new studies investigated the challenges, concerns, and worries that women with cerebral palsy face by studying Facebook groups. Published in the journal British Medical Journal Open, the results of the study indicate that these women need a platform to share their experiences and to communicate with the healthcare community.
A major difficulty that the women in the Facebook groups highlighted was premature aging. People with CP tend to age earlier and in more pronounced ways. For women in particular this raises issues associated with reproductive health and menopause as well as self-esteem associated with aging. Many women experienced barriers to reproductive healthcare because of their disabilities, associated stigma, and lack of training in medical professionals.
Women also pointed out that their concerns about aging and sexual and reproductive health are not often discussed in the healthcare setting. Many feel unprepared for the bodily effects and challenges of aging with CP. They complained of CP symptoms worsening with age and how these changes negatively impact their lifestyles. The researchers concluded that the Facebook platform was important for these women, but ultimately inadequate. The healthcare industry needs to hear and address their concerns.
Cerebral Palsy Pain in Girls
Another recent study, published in BMC Neurology, primarily investigated pain in any child or adolescent with cerebral palsy. The results, though, indicated that girls may have a higher risk of experiencing more and more severe pain than boys with CP.
Anywhere between 30 and 70 percent of people with CP experience pain regularly. The most common type of pain is in the legs and lower joints and muscles. Other typical pains associated with CP are headaches and abdominal pain. Studying pain in this population is important because it interferes with quality of life.
The study looked at more than 3,500 people between the ages of 4 and 18 diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The researchers collected information on pain as reported by the patients or their caregivers as well as on mobility and motor function.
One interesting finding was that girls report pain more often than boys, up to 1.28 times more. And, as the girls got older, they were more likely to report experiencing pain. These older girls also had pain that was more severe and intense.
Understanding that being female and an older age are risk factors for pain with CP, doctors and other caregivers can focus on relief for this population. Prevention is also a strategy that may help these girls as they get older.
Studies of women and girls with cerebral palsy is helping to provide important information about a unique group of patients. The results from the studies will help lead to better preventative measures, treatments, and therapies for managing pain and other symptoms as well as opening up the discourse in the healthcare community.