Paraplegia is a paralysis that primarily affects one side of the body. It is not rare, and many people live with paraplegia daily. It is estimated that roughly 2.5 million Americans currently have hemiplegic syndrome due to stroke, brain tumor, or other neurological injuries. Consequently, many people are interested in learning more about paraplegia to understand how it will affect them and their loved ones.
1. Know the Different Types of Paraplegia
To better understand paraplegia, it is important first to know the different types of paraplegia and their respective causes. There are three main types of paraplegia:
- Paraplegia: The most common type of paraplegia affects the legs and lower trunk. It is caused by damage to the lower portion of the spinal cord.
- Paraplegia: This type affects the arm and hand on one side of the body. It is caused by damage to the upper portion of the spinal cord.
- Central paraplegia: This type affects both arms and legs. It is caused by damage to the central portion of the brain and is rarely seen outside of patients who have experienced a stroke.
2. Understand the Causes of Paraplegia
To better understand paraplegia, it is important to understand its causes. Paraplegia can develop as a result of several different conditions. Some of the most common causes of paraplegia include:
- Stroke: A stroke occurs when there is a blockage or a rupture in the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the brain. A stroke can cause paraplegia when it affects the motor cortex, which controls voluntary muscle movement.
- Brain tumor: A brain tumor is an abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells within the brain. Tumors can be benign or malignant and can occur at any age. When they grow in the brain, they can disrupt normal pathways and cause problems with muscle control, speech, and other mental and physical abilities.
3. Recognize The Symptoms Of Paraplegia
To better understand paraplegia, it is important to recognize the symptoms of hemiplegia. If a person has paraplegia, the symptoms will vary depending on which type of paraplegia they have. The symptoms of paraplegia include:
Loss of sensation in half of the body: Loss of sensation in half of the body is common in paraplegia. This loss of sensation is referred to as chemosensory loss.
- Weakness or stiffness in half of the body: Some people with paraplegia will have stiffness in their muscles, while others will have a weakness.
- Swallowing issues: These issues are common in paraplegia, especially when it affects the portion of the brainstem that controls swallowing.
- Balance issues: Some people with paraplegia may experience difficulty balancing when they walk.
4. Understand Why One Side Of The Body Is Paralyzed In Paraplegia
To better understand paraplegia, it is important to understand why one side of the body is paralyzed. When paraplegia is caused by a stroke, the blood vessels in the brain that supply oxygen to certain areas of the brain have been blocked or ruptured. This can lead to brain damage and a loss of motor function that primarily affects one side of the body. When a brain tumor causes paraplegia, the tumor can either block or disrupt the pathways that carry messages between the brain and the body. This can also cause brain damage and a loss of motor function, primarily affecting one side of the body.
5. Treatment Options For Paraplegia
When a stroke causes paraplegia, doctors will likely begin with treatment to reduce the risk of having another stroke. However, there are many other treatment options for paraplegia, including the following:
- Physical therapy: Physical therapists help individuals retrain muscles to perform tasks that were once thought too difficult.
- Occupational therapy: Occupational therapists help individuals create new and effective ways to complete daily tasks and household chores that would be too challenging with paraplegia.
- Surgery: If a stroke has caused a tear in the blood vessels leading to the brain, surgery may be an option to repair the damage.
Learning about paraplegia is a helpful first step for anyone recently diagnosed with this condition. A basic understanding of the condition will help you understand the diagnosis and what to expect from treatment. For the best results, it’s important to be open and honest with your doctor about your symptoms and any worries or concerns you may have.