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Cerebellar hypoplasia is a congenital condition where the cerebellum, an important area of the brain, fails to develop fully. Patients with this condition may have it as a standalone issue, or in conjunction with genetic conditions. The prognosis varies, depending on the severity of the hypoplasia, and treatment needs to be tailored to the needs of the individual patient. It can include physical and speech therapy.
People may have cerebellar hypoplasia as a result of exposure to teratogenic compounds, including some medications, as well as recreational drugs, in the womb. It can also develop as a result of genetic disorders involving the brain. Babies with cerebellar hypoplasia may have a notably floppy muscle tone and usually experience developmental delays including difficulty toddling and walking, trouble tracking objects with their eyes, and speech delays.
This condition is sometimes diagnosed shortly after birth and in other cases is only identified later, when developmental delays make it clear that there is a problem. Medical imaging of the brain can be used to see how well developed the person's cerebellum is for the age group and diagnostic testing can include genetic screening and a thorough physical exam. Treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia is focused on supportive care, as it is not possible to cure the condition.
Physical therapy can be very beneficial for patients. People can learn walking and other movement skills and develop more muscle control and strength. In speech therapy, people who have difficulty forming speech can acquire tips and tricks from a speech-language pathologist. Occupational therapy may help people develop skills specific to particular activities. People with cerebellar hypoplasia can also be provided with supportive care if they have developmental disabilities and other medical issues.
While the thought of a birth defect involving the brain is often frightening, it is important to be aware that conditions like cerebellar hypoplasia can run a wide gamut in terms of severity. Some people with this condition lead very active lives, while others may require more extensive treatment. Many are able to attend school and participate in the workplace with peers, although they may be a bit wobbly on their feet at times.
This condition can also be observed in animals. Dogs and cats with neurological conditions like cerebellar hypoplasia were once thought to be unadoptable due to their increased needs. This thinking has changed, as research shows that many animals with this condition can actually acquire very good motor skills and may not have any unique care needs, although it is advisable to keep them primarily indoors for their safety.