What Is Paralysis and Types of Paralysis
Paralysis is a severe type of personal injury. It occurs when something interrupts the messages that pass between the brain and the muscles in the body, often in the form of a spinal cord injury. Many different accidents can cause paralysis, from diving into shallow water to diseases. No known cure exists for paralysis. Patients with this condition generally have to adapt to life with permanent disabilities.
Paralysis is a loss of function and/or feeling in the muscles. Motor and sensory damage to the muscles can occur due to nervous system problems. Paralysis may be complete or incomplete. Complete paralysis is the total loss of feeling and function, while incomplete paralysis means only partial loss. Paralysis may affect the whole body, only the lower limbs or three out of four limbs. It can occur on just one side of the body or both sides. Cases vary depending on the extent of damage to the nervous system.
How Does Paralysis Happen?
Paralysis can stem from external or internal trauma that impacts the nervous system. External trauma, such as a blow to the spinal cord in an accident, could sever the spine or damage its surrounding nerves and ligaments. The spinal cord may never recover, resulting in permanent paralysis. Paralysis could also arise due to internal issues, such as tumors, infections and neurological problems.
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Sports incidents
- Acts of violence
- Medical malpractice
- Birth defects
- Traumatic brain injuries
Any fracture, dislocation, compression, swelling, bleeding or inflammation on or near the spinal cord could cause paralysis. The spinal cord is a delicate part of the body that plays a vital role in movement, function and feeling. Any type of damage to the spine could cause paralysis. Traumatic or nontraumatic damage to nerve fibers can permanently impair all or part of the muscles below the point of injury.
Types of Paralysis
Paralysis is not a simple condition. It involves many elements and unknown factors. For example, some patients may respond better to treatments than others, often for unknown reasons. Paralysis comes in many forms. Different types of injuries or illnesses will lead to varying levels of disability for the patient. The nature of the injury will determine the type of paralysis – if any – the victim will suffer.
- If the patient experiences paralysis in one limb, he or she has monoplegia. Sometimes monoplegia is a temporary condition after a stroke or brain injury.
- Loss of movement and feeling in the limbs on only one side of the body is hemiplegia. Its most common cause is cerebral palsy.
- Paralysis below the waist is paraplegia. It can refer to paralysis of the hips, legs, sexual organs, bowel, bladder, feet and/or toes.
- Paralysis of all four limbs and the torso is quadriplegia. Quadriplegics may lose function in their necks and respiratory systems, requiring ventilators to survive.
The location of the nerve damage along the spinal cord can determine the type of paralysis. Injuries higher on the neck, to the cervical spine, may cause quadriplegia. Injuries lower on the spinal cord could cause paraplegia or hemiplegia.
Can You Treat Paralysis?
Patients with minor spinal cord injuries or paralysis from something such as a brain injury may be able to overcome paralysis with treatments. However, patients with paralysis due to a severed spine or permanently damaged nerves may never overcome their disabilities. Potential treatments for paralysis include surgeries, physical therapy, massage therapy and occupational therapy.
Most patients with paralysis can improve their independence with assistive devices and technologies. Wheelchairs, braces, canes, walkers, voice-activated computers, and home or vehicle modifications can help a paralyzed person get around, talk, eat and engage in other daily activities without full-time care. Other patients, however, may need live-in assistance. Each patient’s experience is unique.
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