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Paralysis is the loss of muscle  function. It causes an  inability to move a part or parts of the body. Let us learn more about paralysis in the following paragraphs.

What is Paralysis?

The loss or impairment of voluntary muscle or group of muscles is called as paralysis. The sensory nerves along with the central nervous system carry information to and fro from the brain and muscles. This helps the muscles move or carry out certain required actions. When this communication is lost, it leads to loss of control over the muscles. Gradually, the muscles turn weak and lose coordination. This muscle weakness then progresses to paralysis. It can also include loss of sensation in the affected part.

Types of Paralysis

Paralysis can affect one or both sides of the body. One can develop partial or complete paralysis. It can be localized or affect many parts of the body, that is, generalized. Paralysis can be classified medically based on the part affected. This includes:

Monoplegia:  Paralysis striking just one limb, either one arm or leg

Hemiplegia:Paralysis of one arm and one leg on one side of the body

Paraplegia: Paralysis of the lower part of the body, this includes both legs and sometimes the pelvis as well as some parts of the lower body.

Quadriplegia: Paralysis of both arms and legs.

Hemiparesis: Paralysis causing one-sided weakness

Locked-in Syndrome: A condition where the patient is unable to move any muscles, except the muscles of the eyes.

Foot Drop: This type of condition is very common after a stroke. Here, one cannot raise the front part of the foot. The paralysis causes the foot or ankle to drop when raising the leg to take a step.

Dysphagia: Paralysis of the throat muscles causing disruption in eating, drinking, talking, breathing, etc.

Spasticity: Stroke causing paralysis where the muscles become stiff or tight. This causes problems with movement, lifting things, walking and difficulty in performing daily tasks.

Vocal Cord Paralysis: Paralysis o f one or both the vocal cords causing problems with speech, hoarseness in voice, vocal fatigue, problems swallowing, etc.

Symptoms of Paralysis

Symptoms of paralysis depend on the type of muscle affected. In case of localized paralysis, the symptoms may include:

  • Facial paralysis, in case of Bell’s palsy, leading to limited use of muscles on one side of the face
  • Limited use of a paralyzed arm
  • Vocal cord paralysis leading to hoarness in voice, inability to swallow

Symptoms of generalized paralysis include:

  • Loss of fuction in one limb
  • Loss of function in one arm and leg
  • Loss of function in both legs
  • Both arms and legs paralyzed

Causes of Paralysis

Paralysis is usually caused by an injury or damage to the nervous system. In most cases of spinal cord injury, the patient may develop some form of paralysis. This is because the major nerves of the central nervous system pass through the spinal cord.

Other causes of paralysis include:

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Diagnosis of Paralysis

The signs of paralysis are quite obvious after one suffers a stroke or injures the spinal cord. If at all there is any doubt, the doctor may conduct certain tests that include:

  • X-ray
  • CT Scan/MRI
  • Myelography
  • Electromyography

Treatment for Paralysis

Permanent paralysis has no cure. The treatment given aims at helping the affected person adapt to a new life and overcome the physical limitations. There are many aids that help with mobility as well as exercises that help give strength to the affected muscles.

Mobility aids include wheelchairs and crutches. There are orthoses that can be used in place of wheelchairs.

These orthoses include:

  • Wrist-hand orthoses
  • Ankle-foot orthoses
  • Knee-ankle-feet orthoses

Those with respiratory problems or diaphragm paralysis will need a ventilator to breath. Those with muscle spasticity will be given muscle relaxants, botulinum toxin injections, etc.

Paralysis is a debilitating condition that disrupts ones normal life. It first comes as a shock to the affected person. Losing the ability to carry out normal tasks and most importantly, loss of independence and dependence on others is the most difficult part to come to terms with. In this case, the support from friends and family is very important. Physiotherapy and other supportive care help one gain self-confidence as well as movement to some extent in some cases.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: January 25, 2015