Paralysis: Top three risk factors and treatment


Paralysis is when the brain body’s neural connections weaken or lose altogether. A paralytic attack can severely affect the muscles. The patient cannot move their muscles despite their hard-trails. Although muscles are the primary victim, paralysis can affect only the voluntary muscles. It also results in a lack of sensation. These muscles move only in response to brain stimulus.

The brain sends a signal to the muscles, but it doesn’t usually reach the destination, due to loss of connection, in paralysis. Paralysis will not affect the involuntary muscle tissues– such as the heart and lungs. Any loss of function in the involuntary muscles is fatal.

There may be many reasons for a paralytic attack. It primarily includes a spinal cord injury. Neurological complications, autoimmune reactions, and the condition of a person– like diabetes and blood pressure, contribute to the risk factors of developing an attack.

What parts of the brain control voluntary actions?

Different regions of the brain control the two kinds of action- innate and learned. Reflex action and pattern generators in the spinal cord and brainstem, control the innate movement. Whereas the cerebral cortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellum control learned action, i.e., voluntary actions. Phylogenetically, the brain evolved in response to different stimuli. The cerebral cortex helps create several new neural connections in an individual in response to the environmental factors.

A movement can trigger many neural connections from different regions. All these converge in the movement generating mechanism. A load of all the signals at once can result in an excitatory action. The basal ganglia control and limit excitatory response, along with many of its other functions involved in a movement.

When various signals converge in the basal ganglia, the limbic system helps evaluate the signals. Later, these processed memories are used for learning of individual movements. Although neural networks are independent, they work parallelly and generate a perfectly learned action potential.

In a voluntary action- like when you want to drink a cold glass of water- your brain sends a signal via your nerves. The signals from nerves reach the spinal cord. The stimulus travels from the spinal cord via nerves into the sensory cortex. It eventually reaches the muscles, with a similar chain reaction—our muscles contract to reach the glass.

If the water is cold, muscles and nerves present along the skin travel in the same route to reach the cerebral cortex where the information is processed as cold. People frequently tend to confuse a voluntary and reflex action. The latter involves the spinal cord, unlike voluntary movement, which involves the brain.

Different types of paralysis

There are four significant types of paralysis

  • Monoplegia: Affects one or one leg
  • Hemiplegia: This paralysis affects one arm and one leg on the side
  • Paraplegia: Affects the lower regions of the body
  • Quadriplegia: Affects both arms and legs

How can high blood pressure cause a paralytic attack?

High blood pressure always keeps the patient at risk of a stroke. High BP results in an increased burden on the blood vessels. With increased blood pumping from the heart, the walls of the arteries thicken. These thick arteries can result in blood clots and overall disruptions in blood supply to different organs, including the brain.

The brain’s functions gradually decrease, resulting in symptoms like frequent headaches, nausea, loss of concentration, inability to speak correctly, Dementia, and cognitive impairments.

Increased pressure can also result in an aneurysm, eventually leading to internal bleeding. In the events of internal bleeding near or inside the brain, the brain is prone to a hemorrhagic stroke. Temporary blood clots in the brain can result in transient ischemic strokes- the mini-strokes.

Patients should consider them as warning signs and take necessary precautions. These kinds of severe strokes can result in paralysis, coma, or death of an individual.

Certain neurological conditions can also cause paralysis.

In Bell’s palsy, the facial muscles on one side of the face suddenly weaken. One side of the face starts to droop- the smile is half-sided, and the eye on the weak side resists to close. You also begin to experience pain behind the ear. The reason is swelling and inflammation of nerves that control the facial muscles. Prolonged conditions can result in paralysis. Hence, the condition is also called facial paralysis.

Cerebral palsy: refers to groups of neurological disorders that gradually affect muscular movements. It appears during infancy or childhood. These affected neurons can be a result of injuries during pregnancy or low blood supply to the brain. Cerebral palsy sure increases the risk of paralysis. The blood clots in the placenta block the blood supply to the brain of the fetus during pregnancy, resulting in a fetal stroke. Apart from clots, malformed, and weak blood vessels in the brain increase the risk. Maternal hypertension and maternal infections, like pelvic inflammation, also contribute to the increased risk of paralysis.

How Guillain-Barre syndrome causes paralysis?

Guillain barre syndrome is one of the well-known types of autoimmune disorders. The immune system, under the influence of infection- most commonly a viral infection- starts attacking its own nerve cells. This attack can result in a loss of connection between the nerve and muscle cells, eventually leading to a paralytic attack. In the most common form of an acute demyelinating neuropathy, it damages the myelin sheath of nerves resulting in a deteriorated nerve cell.

Current treatments

  • Occupation therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Supportive care
  • Adaptive equipment and mobility aids

Brain implant for the treatment of paralysis

In paralysis, there exists a loss of connection between the brain and the muscle. This loss doesn’t need to be permanent. The researchers at Battelle Inc., Ohio, came up with a solution for this problem– the NeuroLife. Their answer is a brain implant with a chip.

Since the brain is active enough to send signals, which won’t reach the muscles for movement, this chip helps convert the stimulus into digital signals. A computer-based algorithm mediates the conversion. The signals then transmit to a wearable sleeve consisting of 260 electrodes.

These electrodes help the person in muscular movements. The first patient to volunteer for the new technology testing is Ian Burkhart– became a quadriplegic after a driving accident. This technology can help the paralytic patients, with lost hope, for muscular movements.

Related: What causes sleep paralysis? Who is the shadowy figure?

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