Paralysis is the inability or complete loss of muscle function in the body. Loss of muscle function in itself does not cause paralysis. It is more of a disruption in the communication process between the muscles and the brain that causes paralysis. So it is actually some form of nerve damage. Depending upon the cause it can also affect a specific group of muscles or region of the body.
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Causes of Paralysis
Paralysis is mainly caused by the following conditions –
Stroke – Almost 30 percent of all paralyzes are caused by stroke. Types of paralysis from stroke include –
- Hemiplegia or one-sided paralysis
- Hemiparesis, that is, weakness or
- Spasticity, meaning, stiff or tight inability to move one side of the body muscles
- Dysphagia or trouble swallowing
- Foot drop or inability to raise the front part of the foot
Spinal cord injury – It is the second largest cause after stroke. Spinal cord injury may occur because of work place accidents, motor vehicle accidents, sports accident, falls, birth defects, being a victim of violence, natural disasters, and many other known and unknown causes.
Cerebral palsy – Cerebral palsy is brain paralysis. It is a neurodegenerative disorder that occurs as a result of abnormal development or damage to the parts of the brain that control movement.
Post-polio syndrome – It is initial polio attack. Muscle weakness, fatigue, and paralyzes is a common symptom of the syndrome. The cause is unknown but experts opine that the condition that affects survivors of polio. The syndrome can occur years after one syndrome can occur because of fatigue of overworked nerve cells or brain damage due to virus or combination of both and other factors.
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Usually, paralysis occurs along with some of the following symptoms –
- Loss of consciousness (could be brief) or confusion
- Clumsiness and numbness
- Severe headache
- Difficulty breathing
- Cognitive difficulties, difficulty writing or speaking
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Loss or changes in vision and/ or hearing
- Nausea with or without vomiting
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Treatment and Recovery
Researchers and medical professional are confident that partial or even complete recovery is possible with some types of paralyzes. Whether it is paralysis from stroke, spinal cord injury, or polio, treatment and recovery techniques are similar. Treatments are usually aimed at restoring the brain-body connection.
A wearable electronic device that helps recover arm function by delivering tiny electrical currents to the nerves thereby activating hand and arm muscles. This method is called Functional Electrical Stimulation or FES. FES is already in use for recovery in lower legs and feet paralysis.
Researchers around the world are now trying out this technique, called stem cell therapy, to restore lost motor function of spinal cord injury. Studies found that recovery, partial or complete, was more difficult with advancing age.
Older adults took much more time or even did not recover completely from paralysis because of other medical conditions including cardiac problems and diabetes. Although age did seem to be a factor in complete recovery or time taken to recovery in paralysis, especially spinal cord injury, the severity of the injury is the more significant predictor of recovery outcome.
If cure or recovery from paralysis is not possible, various mobility aids such as wheelchairs and orthoses are available for people with these disease.
Seek treatment for associated symptoms such as bowel movement, neuropathic pain, and breathing difficulties.