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Paralysis: Symptoms, Types, Causes, Prevention and Treatment

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

According to a report from the Indian Institute of Paralysis, out of every one crore people, 12,000 to 15,000 have Paralysis. This number is quite concerning! Paralysis can alter your life in numerous ways, so you must be aware of the symptoms, causes, treatment & prevention methods so that you can take timely action. Read on to know more.




What is meant by Paralysis? 

Paralysis or plegia is the loss of muscle motor function. In severe sensory and motor damage, Paralysis can also result in a sensory loss (loss of feeling) in the affected area. Simply put, Paralysis is the body's loss of muscle function. The degree of Paralysis can be partial or whole, temporary or permanent, localised or generalised, depending on the type of injury sustained. 

The following can occur in case a person is suffering from Paralysis:

  1. If the spinal cord is damaged, the brain cannot send or receive messages to some parts of the body.

  2. Brain injuries prevent the brain from sending signals to specific body parts.

  3. Injuries to the spinal cord prevent the brain from adequately relaying a reaction to touch and other bodily sensations.

What are the different types of Paralysis?

Signals cannot reach the targeted area, which in this case are the muscles, when any portion of the relay system, such as the brain, spinal cord, or nerves, is compromised or injured. Paralysis can develop from spinal cord injury (be it permanent or temporary).  Following are the five different types of Paralysis:

  1. Monoplegia: One limb, such as the arm or the leg, is affected by this type of generalised Paralysis

  2. Diplegia: The same parts are affected on both sides of the body. For example, both sides of the face, legs, or arms are affected by this generalised Paralysis condition known as diplegia.

  3. Hemiplegia: Usually brought on by a stroke, hemiplegia affects one side of the body. This particularly generalised Paralysis may harm one side of the brain.

  4. Locked-in Syndrome: The most severe and least common type of Paralysis is "locked-in syndrome". In such circumstances, people are unable to move their muscles, except the muscles that control eye movement.

  5. Paraplegia: When Paralysis starts around the waist, it is referred to as paraplegia.

  6. Quadriplegia: When all four limbs become paralyzed, the disorder is known as quadriplegia. Sometimes specific organs also experience Paralysis.

What are the signs and symptoms of Paralysis?

The symptoms of Paralysis differ depending on the type. The signs of Paralysis are very simple to recognize. Paralysis can happen at any time. So, both children and adults can experience the symptoms of Paralysis. 

Mild symptoms Severe symptoms
Muscular discomfort that persists even after light exercise, Muscle spasms, Constant weakness, Tingling sensation, Longer episodes of muscular weakness, Pain in the affected side's jaw or ear, Diarrhoea, Constipation, Numbness, Clumsiness, Either nausea or vomiting, Pain in the neck area Drooling, Trouble understanding, communicating, remembering, writing, or reading, Confusion or loss of consciousness, Mood, attitude, or behaviour changes Loss of hearing, Fever, Loss of eyesight or visual alterations, Severe headache, Rashes, Reduced capacity to taste, increased sensitivity to sound, Face drooping and trouble moving the facial muscles

What causes Paralysis?

Attacks that produce Paralysis can occur for a number of reasons. Patients may develop symptoms later as a result of traumas or accidents, as well as congenital disabilities. However, one of the leading causes of Paralysis is thought to be a stroke.

  1. Weakness: Periodic weakness in the face, legs, or arms can be a symptom of multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, or hypokalemic periodic Paralysis.

  2. Stroke: A stroke, transient ischaemic attack, or mini attack can result in an abrupt loss of facial strength on one side. Additionally, this may result in speech slurring or weak arms.

  3. Injuries: Paralysis may result from a severe brain or spinal cord injury.

  4. Sleep Paralysis: A momentary difficulty in moving when getting up or drifting off to sleep is known as sleep Paralysis.

  5. Bell's palsy: One side of the face may suddenly become weak due to Bell's palsy.

  6. Brain tumour: One side of the body may gradually become weaker due to a brain tumour.

  7. Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome: Arms and legs may become paralysed due to motor neuron illness, spinal muscular atrophy, or Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome.

  8. Guillain-Barre syndrome: Within a few days, Guillain-Barre syndrome can cause Paralysis to start in the legs and progress to the face and arms.

  9. Spina Bifida : Paralysis or muscle weakness in the legs can be caused by spina bifida, a congenital disability.

  10. Post-polio Syndrome : Many years after contracting polio, the post-polio syndrome can cause Paralysis.

  11. Friedreich's Ataxia: One of the signs of Paralysis in the legs is a progressive weakness in the legs, which can be caused by Friedreich's ataxia or hereditary spastic paraplegia. Parts of the face may gradually become weaker due to melanoma, a tumor affecting the nerves in the head and neck.

  12. Other causes : When injuries occur in persons with severe medical disorders like diabetes, the causes of Paralysis might also worsen. For instance, diabetic nerve damage can result in decreased range of motion in several body parts, especially the feet. As a result, walking becomes more difficult, and other major health problems, like cardiovascular crises, arise.

How to diagnose Paralysis?

Any diagnosis is insufficient without identifying the underlying cause of this illness. The loss of muscle movement is a major indication of Paralysis, making the diagnosis quite simple. Therefore, whether a patient experiences a stroke or spinal cord injury, doctors can diagnose Paralysis. 

However, identifying it and its underlying causes in internal organs becomes very challenging. In such circumstances, doctors may recommend certain testing. Here are a few tests that your doctors may suggest if they suspect Paralysis.

  • Myelography

  • CT Scan

  • Spinal tap

  • MRI

  • Electromyography (EMG)

  • X-ray

What is the ideal treatment for Paralysis?

Here are some treatment options for Paralysis patients.

  1. Medications: Patients that are suffering from Paralysis due to an injury may need medication or surgery to improve their condition. The purpose of this type of surgery is to reduce Edema. Medications decrease the risk of bacterial or viral infections following surgery, and patients must continue to take them as prescribed.

  2. Physiotherapy: In some cases, Paralysis can be treated with Physiotherapy and exercise. Thus, patients who experience partial or total Paralysis benefit from this kind of treatment. Physiotherapy can also assist patients in healing and regaining sensation and motor function in some parts of the affected region.

How can Paralysis patients improve their quality of life?

Following are the ways in which Paralysis patients can improve their quality of life.

  • Manual wheelchairs: Patients can obtain various helpful mobility aids because of advancements in medical technology. Patients can use mobility aids like a manual wheelchair for short-distance commuting, for instance, if they have partial Paralysis of the lower body but complete function in the upper body.

  • Electric wheelchairs: People with weaker upper body muscles and partial Paralysis in the bottom part of their body can use an electric wheelchair.

  • Modified vehicles: Vehicles can be properly equipped to meet the requirements of those with special needs. They can replace the accelerator and brake pedals with levers in this situation. Additionally, the steering wheel can be modified and used such that wrists, rather than fingers or hands, can operate it.

  • Brain computers: There are many voice-command-based systems available in the market. Quadriplegic patients can utilise these cutting-edge technologies to operate mobile phones, TV,  audio equipment, etc. Additionally, fully Paralysed patients can buy specialised computers to help communicate or compose simple sentences.

How to prevent Paralysis?

A number of underlying health issues or injuries can lead to Paralysis. Thus, it will be helpful to address any medical conditions that can lead to this disease. Here are some tips to prevent Paralysis.

  1. Eat a balanced diet.

  2. Exercise regularly to improve your health.

  3. Quit smoking if you are an active smoker.

  4. Maintain the weight recommended as per your height, age and gender.

  5. Undergo regular annual health check-ups to identify early signs of any diseases, including Paralysis.

While it may not be possible to prevent all cases of hereditary Paralysis, you can lower their risk by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Frequently asked questions

Is Paralysis curable?


There is currently no treatment for Paralysis. However, some people achieve a partial or full recovery, depending on the nature and source of the problem. Without medical intervention, Temporary Paralysis brought on by Bell's palsy or a stroke may resolve on its own.

Can a Paralysed woman have children?


Yes, a Paralysed woman can have children as her ability to become pregnant and carry the pregnancy to full term is unaffected if the Paralysis is due to a spinal cord injury.

How does a wearable robot help a paralysed person?


A wearable robot or a bionic robot helps a person move around by providing support to the body of a Paralysed person. These are also called exoskeletons, i.e. an outer covering that can be worn around the body.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.



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