Paralysis has many different causes and occurs when an individual loses sensation or use of muscles in one or more areas of the body. The condition may be temporary and resolved on its own or with medical and therapeutic interventions. Paralysis may also be considered permanent when an individual is not expected to recover partial or full function in the area affected.
Paralysis affects more than 5.4 million Americans, with the majority of cases occurring in individuals between the ages of 18 and 64. Women and men are affected in equal numbers, with Caucasians accounting for nearly 71 percent of all cases.
There is no cure for paralysis, however, scientific advancements in modern technology and medicine are providing improved outcomes for many individuals experiencing paralysis and may actually provide a cure in the near future.
Causes of Paralysis
The brain, spinal cord, nervous system, and muscles are responsible for sensation and movement throughout the body. Paralysis can have myopathic or neuropathic origin that negatively interferes with these systems.
Paralysis with myopathy is a neuromuscular disorder when the muscle tissue is directly involved, as in the case of polio or congenital diseases. Neuropathy-related paralysis involves a malfunction within the nervous system due to nerve damage or improper chemical signaling from the brain. The leading causes of paralysis are:
- Stroke; 33.7 percent
- Spinal cord injury; 27.3 percent
- Multiple sclerosis; 18.6 percent
- Cerebral Palsy; 8.3 percent
Temporary paralysis, known as periodic paralysis, is an ongoing condition caused by disease where the individual experiences sporadic episodes of paralysis. Individuals living with multiple sclerosis often experience this form of paralysis.
Sleep paralysis is also a temporary condition that sometimes occurs during transitions into or out of REM sleep. Sleep paralysis episodes usually last from only a few seconds to a minute and do not indicate illness or disease.
Symptoms of Developing Paralysis
Partial or complete paralysis may have an immediate onset following an accident or traumatic injury affecting the brain or spinal cord. But some forms of paralysis develop over time and present early signs and symptoms such as:
- Tingling sensation
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle pain or numbness
- Muscle loss or atrophy
- Twitching or spasms
Different diseases may cause different symptoms depending on the part of the body affected. Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), occurs when the body's immune system attacks the nervous system causing nerve inflammation. Paralysis comes on suddenly or some individuals may notice tingling, numbness and muscle weakness beforehand.
Sudden weakness affecting one side of the face, arm weakness, and slurred speech may indicate an impending stroke and risk of paralysis from a blockage of the blood supply to the brain.
Treating and Managing Paralysis
Historically, paralysis has been difficult to treat and was often considered a permanent condition, aside from cases involving temporary paralysis. But today outcomes are much more promising with advancements in surgical and technological treatments to restore partial or full function.
Physical therapy is a typical treatment for improving outcomes in individuals experiencing paralysis. It includes the use of exercise, massage and heat treatments to stimulate muscles and nerves which may restore some or all loss of function in limbs.
In stroke victims that experience paralysis on one side of the body, early intervention with treatment is the most important thing. Quick reactions and treating a stroke make all the difference in avoiding paralysis as much as possible, and ensuring it is more treatable afterwards.
Electrical implants involving the procedure, epidural stimulation, have been successfully used to restore the ability to walk for some spinal cord injured patients.
Some other therapies have been used to regenerate tissue and nerve cells in patients, which may reverse paralysis in the near future. While paralysis remains a serious and dangerous problem, the future of treatment does look bright.
The articles on this website should not be used to start the use of dietary supplements or vitamins, natural or herbal products, homeopathic medicine or other mentioned products prior to a proper consultation with a doctor or certified health provider.