Paralysis is defined as the total or almost total loss of voluntary muscular movement. The term paralysis should not be used in the same way as paresis, as the latter indicates a mild muscular weakness.
Paralysis is a symptom caused by a variety of conditions. Sensory perception of the paralysed body part is also diminished or lost in many cases. Paralysis is categorised in many different ways and is caused by a great variety of conditions, mainly of neurological nature. Any part of the body can be paralysed, depending on the cause,and the loss of voluntary control may or not be reversible.
1. Depending on the extent
Localised paralysis: Affecting a particular part of the body. Examples of localised paralysis include Bell’s Palsy (face), paralysis of one hand or vocal cord paralysis.
Generalised paralysis: Paralysis affecting a wider area of one’s body. Typical types of generalised paralysis include:
2. Depending on the duration
3. Depending on sensory perception
4. Spastic or flaccid paralysis
Paralysis, whether temporary or permanent, localised or widespread, can be caused by a variety of conditions. One of the causes affecting both young and old individuals involve major spinal cord injuries due to traumatisation. Moreover, conditions affecting the muscles themselves and the nervous system are responsible for causing paralysis.
Depending on the level of the spinal cord injury, different types of paralysis occur.The criteria determining which part of the body will be affected are the spinal vertebrae involved in the injury. There are 7 cervical vertebrae (C1-7), located at the neck, followed by 12 thoracic ones across the thorax (T1-12). The next 5 vertebrae are the lumbar vertebrae (L1-5) and finally, 5 sacral vertebrae leading to the coccyx (S1-5).
Muscular conditions causing paralysis:
Conditions of the nervous system causing paralysis:
Other causes of paralysis:
Given the wide range of conditions causing paralysis, there is a variety of diagnostic tests carried out to determine its cause. A doctor will perform a detailed clinical examination, take a patient’s medical history and carry out tests involving MRIs, CT-scans, muscle biopsy and blood tests among others. Treatment depends on the underlying condition.