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Paralysis: Types, Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Paralysis is a condition in which parts of your body lose its muscle function. The condition can be localised or generalised. Paralysis can be temporary or permanent, and in some individuals, it can come and go. Likewise, the condition can be partial or complete and can affect you at any time in your life [1] .

The condition develops when the connection between the brain and the muscles are disturbed [2] . Paralysis can cause breathing problems, speech problems and lack of sexual response, among various others.

Types Of Paralysis

Doctors differentiate between the type of paralysis according to its location, severity, flaccid or spastic and duration. Stiff or spastic paralysis develops when your muscles are tight and jerky, and floppy or flaccid paralysis causes your muscles to sag and shrink. The different types of paralysis are as follows [3] :

1. Partial or incomplete paralysis: This occurs when you can move or feel some sensation in your muscles or muscle groups. Partial paralysis does not cause total loss of function and is also called paresis.

2. Complete paralysis: Under this condition, you will be unable to move or control the paralysed muscles. You will not be able to feel anything in those muscles either.

3. Localised paralysis: This type of paralysis occurs in one specific area, such as your hands, feet, face or vocal cords.

4. Generalised paralysis: This type of paralysis is widespread in your body. It is described as a group of conditions that can affect multiple parts of your body. The type usually depends on the location of injury in the brain or spinal cord.

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Generalised paralysis is further classified into the following types [4] :

Diplegia: This type affects the same area on both sides of your body such as both arms, both legs, or both sides of your face.

Monoplegia: This one affects just one limb.

Hemiplegia: This type of generalised paralysis affects just one side of your body. Hemiplegia usually develops due to stroke and can damage one side of your brain.

Quadriplegia or tetraplegia: When you have this type of generalised paralysis, all the four limbs will be paralysed. In some cases, the condition can also affect certain organs [5] .

Paraplegia: This type of paralysis is the type that causes an individual to be paralysed from the waist down.

Locked-in syndrome: The rarest type of paralysis, locked-in syndrome is the most severe form of paralysis. It causes the individual to lose control of all their muscles except the ones that control the eye movements [6] .

Causes Of Paralysis

The condition is caused due to damage in the nervous system, particularly the spinal cord. Paralysis can also due to a blocked artery in your neck or brain which can trigger a stroke. Some people are born paralysed whereas others develop it due to an accident or a medical condition [7] .

Some of the common causes of paralysis, apart from stroke, are as follows [8] :

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Birth defects
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Post-polio syndrome
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Traumatic brain injury

Some kinds of paralysis are caused by certain conditions such as [9] :

  • Demyelinating diseases
  • Motor neuron diseases (MNDs)
  • Periodic paralysis (caused by changes in certain genes)
  • Muscular dystrophy (MD)
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Tick paralysis
  • Bell's palsy
  • Lyme disease
  • Todd's paralysis (occurs for a brief period after a person with epilepsy has had a seizure)
  • HTLV-1 associated myelopathy

Symptoms Of Paralysis

The signs of the condition can be easily understood. The primary symptom of paralysis is the incapacity to move a part of your body or your whole body [10] . The condition can develop suddenly or gradually.

If one is experiencing paralysis, a numbing or tingling expression can be experienced.

Risk Factors Of Paralysis

Individuals who fall under the following categories have a high risk of developing paralysis [11] :

  • Diabetics
  • Smokers
  • Obese individuals
  • Individuals with high blood pressure
  • Individuals with high cholesterol levels
  • People with a stagnant lifestyle, devoid of physical activities

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Apart from these, if you have a family history of paralysis and Bell's Palsy, you are prone to the risk of paralysis.

Complications Of Paralysis

The condition can have some adverse impact on the body, such as the following [12] :

  • Can lose the sense of taste
  • Low balance
  • Permanent damage to the spinal cord

Diagnosis Of Paralysis

The diagnosing of the condition is comparatively easy, considering the symptoms are visible to the doctor.

If paralysis has affected any of your internal organs, the doctor will recommend X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, or other imaging studies [13] .

If there is a spinal cord injury, myelography will be used to assess the condition. Apart from this, electromyography will also be carried out to measure the electrical activity in your muscles [14] .

Treatment For Paralysis

The analysis and the necessary care for the condition will be dependent on the underlying cause of the paralysis. Along with that, the symptoms too will be taken into consideration to choose the most effective treatment method [15] :

The treatment methods involved are as follows:

  • Medications, such as Botox or muscle relaxers (in the case of spastic paralysis)
  • Surgery (possible amputation)
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, braces, mobile scooters etc.

In many cases, the condition is curable. However, treatment methods aim to help manage the symptoms.

View Article References
  1. [1] Madhok, V. B., Gagyor, I., Daly, F., Somasundara, D., Sullivan, M., Gammie, F., & Sullivan, F. (2016). Corticosteroids for Bell's palsy (idiopathic facial paralysis). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (7).
  2. [2] Gerasimenko, Y. P., Lu, D. C., Modaber, M., Zdunowski, S., Gad, P., Sayenko, D. G., ... & Edgerton, V. R. (2015). Noninvasive reactivation of motor descending control after paralysis. Journal of neurotrauma, 32(24), 1968-1980.
  3. [3] Madhok, V. B., Gagyor, I., Daly, F., Somasundara, D., Sullivan, M., Gammie, F., & Sullivan, F. (2016). Corticosteroids for Bell's palsy (idiopathic facial paralysis). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (7).
  4. [4] Strauss, S. H., Costanza, A., & Séguin, A. (2015). Genetically engineered trees: paralysis from good intentions. Science, 349(6250), 794-795.
  5. [5] Tanaka, S., Aoki, Y., Matoba, Y., Yahagi, K., Itagaki, T., Matsuzaki, Y., & Mizuta, K. (2016). Seroepidemiology of human parechovirus types 1, 3, and 6 in Yamagata, Japan, in 2014. Microbiology and immunology, 60(12), 854-858.
  6. [6] Dahlitz, M., & Parkes, J. D. (1993). Sleep paralysis. The Lancet, 341(8842), 406-407.
  7. [7] 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.
  8. [8] Schottmann, G., Wagner, C., Seifert, F., Stenzel, W., & Schuelke, M. (2016). MORC2 mutation causes severe spinal muscular atrophy-phenotype, cerebellar atrophy, and diaphragmatic paralysis. Brain, 139(12), e70-e70.
  9. [9] Kanemasa, H., Fukai, R., Sakai, Y., Torio, M., Miyake, N., Lee, S., ... & Ishizaki, Y. (2016). De novo p. Arg756Cys mutation of ATP1A3 causes an atypical form of alternating hemiplegia of childhood with prolonged paralysis and choreoathetosis. BMC neurology, 16(1), 174.
  10. [10] Howell, J., Segel, J., Jajosky, R., Savage, N. M., Fields, B., Kota, V., & Mowry, S. (2015). Acute facial paralysis and otomastoiditis as presenting symptoms of myeloid sarcoma. Otology & Neurotology, 36(4), e104-e106.
  11. [11] Sato, Y., Kosugi, S. I., Aizawa, N., Ishikawa, T., Kano, Y., Ichikawa, H., ... & Wakai, T. (2016). Risk factors and clinical outcomes of recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis after esophagectomy for thoracic esophageal carcinoma. World journal of surgery, 40(1), 129-136.
  12. [12] Wilson, D., & Monnet, E. (2016). Risk factors for the development of aspiration pneumonia after unilateral arytenoid lateralization in dogs with laryngeal paralysis: 232 cases (1987–2012). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 248(2), 188-194.
  13. [13] Statland, J. M., Fontaine, B., Hanna, M. G., Johnson, N. E., Kissel, J. T., Sansone, V. A., ... & Griggs, R. C. (2018). Review of the diagnosis and treatment of periodic paralysis. Muscle & nerve, 57(4), 522-530.
  14. [14] Munin, M. C., Heman‐Ackah, Y. D., Rosen, C. A., Sulica, L., Maronian, N., Mandel, S., ... & Gronseth, G. (2016). Consensus statement: using laryngeal electromyography for the diagnosis and treatment of vocal cord paralysis. Muscle & nerve, 53(6), 850-855.
  15. [15] Gagyor, I., Madhok, V. B., Daly, F., Somasundara, D., Sullivan, M., Gammie, F., & Sullivan, F. (2015). Antiviral treatment for Bell's palsy (idiopathic facial paralysis). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (7).

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