What is Paralysis?
Paralysis is a loss of strength and control of one or a group of muscles in a part of the body. In many cases, paralysis does not occur due to a muscle problem with the muscles themselves — rather, it is more likely due to a problem somewhere along the chain of nerve cells that runs from the body part to your brain and back again. These nerve cells are responsible for delivering signals to allow your muscles to move.
Paralysis may occur partially or completely. In other words, paralysis may occur on one or both sides of your body. It may also occur in just one area, or it can be widespread. Paralysis of the lower half of your body, including your legs, is called paraplegia. Meanwhile, paralysis of the arms and legs is called quadriplegia.
You should consult your paralysis condition with a neurologist. Your neurologist will help identify the main cause, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery for your condition. Use Smarter Health’s consultation or teleconsultation services to find a neurologist of your choice.
Types of Paralysis
Paralysis can occur in any part of the body and is localized, affecting only one part of the body or generalized. Localized paralysis often affects areas such as the face, hands, feet, and vocal cords. Several types of paralysis include:
- Partial — you still have some control of your muscles
- Complete — you cannot move your muscles at all.
- Permanent — when muscle control never comes back.
- Temporary — when some or all muscle control returns.
- Flaccid — when the muscles get flabby and shrink.
- Spastic — when the muscles are tight, hard, and jerk like spasms.
Causes of Paralysis
Muscle movement is controlled by trigger signals relayed from the brain. When one of the parts of the relay system, such as the brain, spinal cord, nerves, or junction between the nerve and muscle is damaged, the signals to move the body do not reach the muscles and result in paralysis. There are many factors that may damage the relay system.
Birth defects may cause paralysis, such as spina bifida, which occurs when the brain, spinal cord, and the covering that protects them do not form properly.
In most cases, paralysis can result from an accident or a medical condition that affects how muscle and nerve function. The most common causes of paralysis are:
- Spinal cord injury
- Head injury
- Multiple sclerosis
Numerous other causes may include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease
When to See a Doctor for Paralysis
In general, diagnosing paralysis is often easy to do because the main symptom, such as loss of muscle control in a body area, is obvious. An important part of the diagnosis is determining the cause of paralysis.
The doctor may find it easier to identify the cause if the paralysis occurs after a stroke or spinal cord injury. Sometimes, the doctor may want to learn more about the injury that caused the paralysis, the degree of the paralysis, and the state of the injured nerves. To do that, your doctor may use one or more of the following types of tests:
- X-ray. This test uses small amounts of radiation to produce detailed images of the dense structures inside the body, such as the bones.
- CT scan. This test uses computers to combine many X-ray pictures to show the inside of the body.
- MRI. This test uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce clear images of the body.
- Myelography. This test uses a contrast dye that is injected into the spinal canal. It is done to make the nerves show up very clearly on an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI.
- Electromyography (EMG). This test is used to measure electrical activity in the muscles and nerves.
- Spinal tap. This test involves the use of a long needle, which is injected into the spine to collect spinal fluid.
Symptoms of Paralysis
Symptoms of paralysis may vary widely — depending on the underlying cause but are often easy to spot or recognize. A person born paralyzed or suddenly becomes paralyzed as a result of a stroke or spinal cord injury will experience partial or complete paralysis. At the same time, the person may experience muscle stiffness and a reduced feeling in the affected body parts.
A person who becomes paralyzed due to a medical condition may not be able to maintain their muscle control. The person may feel a tingling sensation, numbness, or muscle cramps before losing control of his or her muscles.
Treatment for Paralysis
There are medications available to treat paralysis. In certain cases, some or all of the muscle control can return on its own or after-treatment of the cause for the paralysis.
Spontaneous recovery commonly occurs in cases of Bell’s palsy — a temporary paralysis of the face and may also occur to some extent with treatment after a stroke. Treatment is very important to prevent the paralysis from getting worse, for example in multiple sclerosis.
Rehabilitation is usually recommended to solve problems that occur due to paralysis — which allows paralyzed patients to live independently and improve their quality of life. Some rehabilitation treatments used for people with paralysis may include:
- Physical therapy. This treatment uses heat, massage, and exercise to stimulate nerves and muscles.
- Occupational therapy. This treatment concentrates on ways to perform daily activities.
- Mobility aids. This includes manual and electric wheelchairs and scooters.
- Assistive technology. This includes voice-activated computers, lighting systems, and telephones.
- Adaptive equipment. This includes special eating utensils and controls to drive a car.
Treatment Cost for Paralysis
Treatment costs for paralysis vary. The cause of paralysis, diagnostic tests, treatment methods, and the recovery process will affect the treatment cost. The total treatment cost also includes both consultation fee and room rate (if inpatient care is necessary).
For more details regarding cost estimation to treat paralysis, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Paralysis
It may be difficult to prevent paralysis that results from birth defects. However, other conditions of paralysis can be prevented by avoiding possible comorbidities, such as stroke and spinal cord injuries. Several ways to prevent paralysis due to stroke, include:
- Quit smoking
- Drink less alcohol.
- Be aware of the signs of a stroke.
- Maintain ideal body weight.
- Control your blood pressure.
- Identify and manage atrial fibrillation early
- Exercise regularly and increase physical activity.
- Control your blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
- Implement a healthy diet low in sodium and high in potassium.
- Be responsive to handling transient ischemic attacks or mild strokes.
- Treat circulatory disorders, such as peripheral artery disease, sickle cell disease, or acute anemia.
Home Remedies for Paralysis
It is recommended that you follow your doctor’s instructions regarding recommended treatments and medications. It is important for you to maintain a healthy lifestyle — which includes performing regular exercise and physical activity. Exercises can help determine the extent of the disability associated with your paralysis.
Have questions about paralysis? Write in the comment section below or consult with a neurologist of your choice through Smarter Health’s teleconsultation service.