Paralysis refers to the loss of the ability to move parts of the body. It occurs when damage to the nervous system causes a disruption in the signals between the brain and muscles. It can occur on either side of your body and in a widespread or localized area. Approximately 1 in 50 Americans, or 5.4 million people, will develop some form of paralysis.
The type of paralysis depends upon the severity, location, and duration of the condition. The severity of paralysis depends upon the amount of muscle function lost. Partial paralysis, sometimes known as paresis, results in severe muscle weakness and mobility impairment. Patients with Paresis maintain some control over the afflicted muscles. During complete paralysis, a patient can’t move the affected body part at all. Temporary paralysis may result from a variety of medical disorders, including sleep paralysis, stroke, and Bell’s palsy. Patients can sometimes regain control of their affected muscles on their own without need for treatment.
Generalized paralysis affects larger areas or multiple parts of the body, while localized paralysis affects only a small part of the body, such as feet, hand, face, etc. based on the location, different paralysis may include:
- Monoplegia: This condition affects only one area, such as one leg or one arm.
- Hemiplegia: This condition affects one arm and one leg on a similar side of the body.
- Paraplegia: This condition affects both legs and sometimes the hips and organs in the lower area.
- Quadriplegia: This condition affects both arms and legs.
What’s the Causes and Symptoms of Paralysis?
Paralysis mostly occurs due to a problem in the nervous system, usually the spinal cord (Armour, Courtney-Long, Fox, Fredine, & Cahill, 2016). The nervous system commands the body by sending signals from the brain to the body to activate different functions. Damage to the nervous system produces disturbances that interfere with those signals. Some major causes of nerve damage in the spinal cord include strokes and spinal fractures due to trauma. Other causes include diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and Guillain-Barré syndrome, poliomyelitis, cerebral palsy, peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, botulism, spina bifida, etc. Spina bifida refers to a birth defect that causes paralysis. Normal REM sleep causes temporary paralysis, and disruption of this system can cause temporary episodes of waking paralysis. Curare, a drug that interferes with nerve function, can also cause paralysis (Zhang, Feng, Du, Zhang, & Tang, 2012).
Patients with paralysis can’t move the affected parts of their body. Depending on where the damage occurs, paralysis can also produce a sensory loss. Sudden paralysis can occur due to strokes and spinal cord injuries. Other signs and symptoms of paralysis may include abnormal muscle cramps, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, stiffness, muscle weakness, involuntary spasms, loss of muscle control and movement, etc. Paralysis also affects other bodily functions such as breathing and heart rate. Depending on the type of paralysis, patients may produce complications such as (Hasin, Hasan, Islam, Hossain, & Musa, 2018):
- Labored breathing, coughing, and risk of pneumonia
- Coagulation of blood and deep vein thrombosis
- Speech difficulties or problems swallowing
- Depression and anxiety
- Cardiovascular problems
- Erectile dysfunction and sexual problems
- Excessively high blood pressure or low blood pressure
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
How Do Spinal Specialists Diagnose Paralysis?
Initial diagnosis of paralysis involves a brief medical history and clinical presentation of patients. Neurosurgeons will ask questions regarding any recent injury or trauma. For more confirmation, neurosurgeons will perform the following tests (Fox, Krahn, Sinclair, & Cahill, 2015):
- X-rays: This helps to see any injuries that may cause nerve damage.
- Imaging tests: Other imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRI, help to see any brain injury or spinal cord injury.
- Myelogram: This helps to check the spinal cord and any nerve injuries.
- Electromyogram (EMG): This uses electrical activity to see nerves and muscles.
- Spinal tap (lumbar puncture): This test extracts spinal fluid to test it for any infections, or disorders such as multiple sclerosis.
How Do Spinal Specialists Treat Paralysis?
Treatment of paralysis depends upon the condition and type of the paralysis. Permanent paralysis has no cure, while temporary paralysis, such as Bell’s palsy, usually recovers with or without treatment after some time (Vaughan, Gardner, Miles, Copley, & Wenke, 2020). Physical, occupational, and speech therapy can help paralyzed patients improve function by providing exercises, adaptations, and assistive equipment. People with various forms of paralysis can benefit from these rehabilitation treatments, which can help them live independently and have a higher quality of life. Other treatments of paralysis may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, mobility devices such as braces, walkers, wheelchairs, etc., medications such as steroid injections, surgical amputations, nerve transfer surgery, etc. Emotional and social support may also benefit a person’s recovery. For more information, please contact us any time.
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Armour, B. S., Courtney-Long, E. A., Fox, M. H., Fredine, H., & Cahill, A. (2016). Prevalence and causes of paralysis – United States, 2013. American Journal of Public Health, 106(10), 1855–1857. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303270
Fox, M. H., Krahn, G. L., Sinclair, L. B., & Cahill, A. (2015). Using the international classification of functioning, disability and health to expand understanding of paralysis in the United States through improved surveillance. Disability and Health Journal, 8(3), 457–463. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2015.03.002
Hasin, F., Hasan, A. K. M. B., Islam, A. F. M. R., Hossain, M. M., & Musa, H. (2018). Reversing Paralysis Technology – Remarkable Breakthrough for the Treatment of Incurable Paralysis. International Journal of Human and Technology Interaction Activities, 2(1), 83–96.
Vaughan, A., Gardner, D., Miles, A., Copley, A., & Wenke, R. (2020). A Systematic Review of Physical Rehabilitation of Facial Palsy. 11(March). https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2020.00222
Zhang, X., Feng, L., Du, L., Zhang, A., & Tang, T. (2012). Literature study on clinical treatment of facial paralysis in the last 20 years using Web of Science. Neural Regeneration Research, 7(2), 152–159. https://doi.org/10.3969/j.issn.1673-5374.2012.02.013
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