The human nervous system is an intricate, highly complex, yet fascinating part of the body, through which the brain controls and communicates to different parts of body. But it’s also the most susceptible to lasting damage if it encounters physical trauma or injury.
Paralysis is when you can’t move certain parts of your body after something goes wrong with their connection to your brain.
What is paralysis?
Paralysis is characterized by a loss of muscle strength and functioning in a part of the body. This is primarily due to a problem with the nerve connections between the brain and the affected body part. The nervous system transfers signals from your brain to your muscles to enable movement, and any disruption in these signals will result in a loss of muscle strength and movement.
What are the different types of paralysis?
Depending on the severity and the duration of this condition, paralysis is classified into the following types:
Paralysis can be Partial, which refers to only a partial loss of muscle control and movement or Complete, a total loss of muscle control and movement. Patients suffering from complete paralysis do not have any form of control over the muscles.
Paralysis can also be classified as a Permanent, Vere form of paralysis where no signals are transmitted in the nervous system, resulting in the permanent loss of muscle function, or Temporary, which refers to a temporary loss of muscle function. Patients suffering from temporary paralysis lose their muscle function for a short period of time, and the control gets gradually restored either partially or fully.
Flaccid paralysis is characterized by muscles that become flabby and end up shrinking in size while in Spastic paralysis the patient’s movement is limited to spasms.
What are the symptoms of paralysis?
The primary symptom of paralysis is the loss of muscle function in any or all parts of the body. Early symptoms involve numbness or a tingling sensation in a patient’s toes and fingers.
Patients suffering from paralysis due to a birth defect, spinal cord injury or stroke would lose control over their muscles almost instantly. But patients who experience paralysis due to an underlying medical condition, would lose muscle function slowly over a period of time.
Paralysis can also be classified based on which part of the body is affected.
- Monoplegia affects just one limb.
- Diplegia affects the same area on both sides, like both arms, both legs, or both sides of your face.
- Hemiplegia affects just one side of your body and is usually caused by a stroke, which damages one side of your brain.
- Quadriplegia (or tetraplegia) is when all four limbs are paralyzed, sometimes along with certain organs.
- Paraplegia is paralysis from the waist down.
- Locked-in syndrome is the rarest and most severe form of paralysis, where a person loses control of all their muscles except the ones that control them eye movements.
When should you see a doctor?
If you experience a persistent numbness or a tingling sensation in your muscles, it is recommended to get in touch with an Apollo Neurologist and get yourself checked for any underlying diseases you may not be aware of.
You also need to rush to the hospital if a patient shows signs of a stroke, as this can lead to partial or complete paralysis or an even more serious outcome.
Early signs to identify a stroke are:
- Drooping of the facial muscles
- Weakness or numbness in arms
- Slurring of words and difficulty in articulation
- Dizziness and blurry vision
What are the causes of paralysis?
The following are the most common causes of paralysis:
- Injury to the head or spinal cord
- Demyelinating diseases like Multiple sclerosis
- Motor neuron diseases (MNDs). Upper motor neuron diseases, like primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), affect just the upper motor neurons. This makes muscles stiff and spastic. Lower motor neuron diseases, like spinal muscular atrophy(SMA), affect only the lower motor neurons. This makes muscles floppy or flaccid, or cause twitching.
- Periodic paralysis. This is caused by changes in certain genes.
- Sleep paralysis.
- Bell’s palsy. This makes half of your face appear to droop.
- Todd’s paralysis. This often happens just after a seizure, usually just on one side of their body.
- Tick paralysisand Lyme disease. Some ticks have neurotoxins in them spit glands that can cause paralysis.
- Paralysis can also be caused by a birth condition called spina bifida, which happens when the brain, spinal cord do not develop properly.
How does paralysis affect the body?
Paralysis affects a group of muscles, and as a result, it can negatively impair various functions of the body. The following are some of the complications that can arise as a result of paralysis:
- Speech impairment
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Disruption in blood flow and circulation
- Impaired functioning of internal organs and glands
- Problems with muscles, joints and bones
- Development of blood clots (especially in the legs)
- Loss of control over urine and/or bowel movement
- Behavioral and mood changes
What are the treatment options for paralysis?
In most cases paralysis can only be managed, and not completely cured through medical interventions as there is no cure for paralysis. At times, patients have reported complete recovery from paralysis over a period of time or after the underlying disease which was causing paralysis has been cured. Certain rehabilitative therapies have enabled some patients to regain their muscle function partially after paralysis. But such rehabilitative therapies focus on helping the patient live on their own, and improve the quality of life.
Rehabilitative therapies for paralysis include the following:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Mobility aids
- Supportive devices
- Assistive technology
- Adaptive equipment
How do you prevent paralysis?
To prevent the onset of paralysis, it’s important to get yourself checked regularly by your Apollo doctor, and be aware of any early signs of stroke, the onset of ALS or any other disorders that can lead to paralysis.
It’s always important to remember that any type of paralysis is difficult to fully reverse, so it’s essential for everyone to be aware of any early signs of paralysis. Even if no symptoms are present, Apollo doctors highly recommended getting a full body checkup done regularly, and check for signs of early onset of paralysis-inducing disorders.
A note from Apollo Hospital
The onset of paralysis is a highly stressful situation for both the patients and their family.
Due to loss of motor functions, patients who suffer from paralysis experience an avalanche of negative emotions, ranging from panic and anxiety to depression. Managing paralyzed patients requires major changes to their lifestyle, with severely paralyzed patients requiring lifelong support from family members and loved ones.
Due to the difficult-to-reverse nature of this condition, Apollo doctors recommended frequent full body checks for people of all ages so that any risk factors can be recognized and treated early. Along with regular checks, Apollo doctors recommend following an active and healthy lifestyle, to prevent the onset of major conditions like stroke.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Is it possible to walk again after being paralyzed?
For persons with spinal cord injury, it is possible to walk again after being paralyzed. Neuroplasticity helps the spinal cord to restructure and undergo adaptive changes. Therefore, it is fortunately achievable with rehabilitation therapy.
- What is the best treatment for paralysis?
Occupational therapy is known to be highly effective in helping patients recover from paralysis. Alternative treatments such as chiropractic care, massage therapy, and acupuncture treatment have yielded positive results for certain people.
- Which food can help in recovering from stroke paralysis?
A healthy, balanced diet with a healthy proportion of all nutrients is important for any recovery.