Also called: Hemiplegia, Palsy, Paraplegia, Quadriplegia

Paralysis is the loss of muscle function in part of your body. It happens when something goes wrong with the way messages pass between your brain and muscles. Paralysis can be complete or partial. It can occur on one or both sides of your body. It can also occur in just one area, or it can be widespread. Paralysis of the lower half of your body, including both legs, is called paraplegia. Paralysis of the arms and legs is quadriplegia.

Most paralysis is due to strokes or injuries such as spinal cord injury or a broken neck. Other causes of paralysis include:

  • Nerve diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Autoimmune diseases such as Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Bell’s palsy, which affects muscles in the face

Paralysis may be localized, or generalized, or it may follow a certain pattern. For example, localized paralysis occurs in Bell’s palsy where one side of the face may be paralyzed due to inflammation of the facial nerve on that side. Patients with stroke may be weak throughout their body (global paralysis) or have hemiplegia (weakness on one side of the body) or other patterns of paralysis depending on the area of damage in the brain. Other patterns of paralysis arise due to different lesions and their sequelae. For example, lower spinal cord damage from a severe back injury may result in paraplegia, while an injury higher up on the spinal cord, such as a neck injury, can cause quadriplegia. Patients with paraplegia or quadriplegia often use equipment such as a wheelchair or standing frame for mobility and to regain some independence.

Most paralyses caused by nervous system damage are constant in nature; however, there are forms of periodic paralysis, including sleep paralysis, which are caused by other factors.

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