Possible Causes of Complete Paralysis
Stroke, head or spinal cord injury, poliomyelitis, cerebral palsy, peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, botulism, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome
Complete paralysis is understood to represent the “…loss of the ability to move one or more muscles…” according to the National Health Service (NHS) UK. There are several different classifications of paralysis ranging from a more mild paralysis which is specific to one area of the body (Localized), to an extreme full body paralysis which affects both arms and legs (Tetraplegia or quadriplegia). A person with any form of paralysis will tend to have some form of impairment in the nerves or nervous system. This article will focus mainly on complete body paralysis which can also be known as a locked in state or syndrome (LIS). Locked in Syndrome basically means that a patient may have been in a state of comatose who then wakes, but remains paralyzed although still awake and conscious without any means of generating speech or movement.
There are only a handful of general causes for complete paralysis in the human body. The three most likely causes of paralysis are strokes, head injuries and spinal cord injuries. Paralysis occurs when there are issues with the neurons sending messages between your brain and muscles. For example, the nervous system itself may be physically damaged which prevents the neurons from being able to travel any further in the body, which is the case with people that have high spinal cord injuries as the neurons cannot travel beyond the point of the damage e.g. damage on the neck.
Strokes are one of the main causes for complete paralysis as it is one of the main symptoms of a stroke. Strokes occur when the supply of blood to the brain is limited or stopped, which causes brain cells to die as they do not receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to function correctly. Strokes affect approximately 110,000 people in England alone every year according to the NHS, and is England’s third largest cause of death.
Head injuries are also one of the main causes for complete paralysis. Head injuries can cause complete paralysis as similar with strokes, some head injuries can cause damages to the brain which operates to control messages between itself and muscles. If your brain becomes damaged it simply cannot control your muscles.
Spinal cord injuries, particularly those high up the spinal column, are another major contributing cause of complete paralysis. Spinal cord injuries are likely to cause complete paralysis as your spinal cord is a package of nerves that run down the midpoint of your back. The nerves carry the neurons back and forth between your brain and muscles, therefore receiving an injury on your spinal cord and nerves will interrupt the signals.
One famous case of a locked in syndrome - which is a state of complete paralysis bar the eye muscles but still conscious and aware - was the case of Julia Tavalaro. Julia was diagnosed as brain dead by doctors after suffering multiple strokes that left her completely paralyzed. However this misdiagnosis was only found after six years when a speech therapist had visited Julia in her custodial institution, as the therapist had noticed Julia’s eyes reacting to the therapist’s questions. After years of physical therapy and training, Julia was able to communicate once again by operating a computer which she controlled by tapping her cheek on the controls. She went on to write a book about her experiences “Look Up For Yes” and became a distinguished poet.
Another well-known case of locked in syndrome, which was this time caused by severe head injuries, is the case of Erik Ramsey. Erik was in a severe car accident at the age of 16 years old in 1999. The injuries in the accident caused a blood clot that wedged in his brain stem, which also led to a stroke, which ultimately led to losing all of his controlled muscle functions. The only function he was able to control was the upward and downward movement of his eyes. He developed this and learnt to communicate with his family using a letter board. However his condition took a further turn for the worse as in 2001 he lost his ability to spell as he was hospitalized for pneumonia. This reverted his communication back to moving his eyes upwards for yes, and downwards for no.
These severe cases of paralysis demonstrate the difficulties that extend beyond treatment of either head injuries, strokes or spinal injuries. Quality of life can quite possible be greatly reduced when having to live with paralysis or in a locked in state. People living with quadriplegia will require a great extent of support and it is extremely unlikely that they will ever be able to live an independent life again.
There are also a few other causes of complete paralysis, however not so prominent. Some of these causes are autoimmune diseases such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, nervous system diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and even Polio, however Polio has been completed cured and removed from the United States. These are mostly progressive diseases that slowly attack your nervous systems or neurons unlike the other three causes stated above, which causes the paralysis directly from the incident whether it be a stroke or neck or spine injury. These slow attacking, progressive diseases will not cause paralysis immediately but may ultimately end in complete paralysis.
As for the future of people that are suffering with locked in syndrome or complete paralysis, brain-computer interface’s (BCI’s) may well be the possible path for creating communication between patients and family, doctors, friends and anyone else. As our brain uses neurons to deliver messages in order for us to operate as a human, it is possible to take data from these neurons. In the human brain, signals are produced by variances in electric potential that ions have in the membrane of the neuron. These electrical signals can be measured and recorded by specialists to investigate and calculate what they represent in terms of human actions.
Causes of Paralysis symptoms that are very common
The following causes of Paralysis symptoms are diseases or medical conditions that affect more than 10 million people in the USA:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Migraine - Eye paralysis
Causes of Paralysis symptoms that are common
The following causes of Paralysis symptoms are diseases or conditions that affect more than 1 million people in the USA:
- Campylobacter food poisoning - Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Graves Disease - paralysis of eye muscles
- Sjogren's syndrome
- Stroke - right hemiplegia
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
Causes of Paralysis symptoms that are uncommon
The following causes of Paralysis symptoms are diseases or conditions that affect more than 200,000 people, but less than 1 million people in the USA:
- Cerebral Palsy - spastic limb paralysis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Neural tube defect - Leg paralysis
- Shingles - partial facial paralysis
Causes of Paralysis symptoms that are rare
The offical US government definition of a "rare" disease is one that affects 200,000 people or less. The following causes of Paralysis symptoms appear in the population at a rate of less than 200,000 people per year in the USA:
- Aicardi syndrome - abducent nerve paralysis
- Alpers Syndrome - quadriparesis
- Alternating Hemiplegia - temporary episodes of one-sided paralysis
- Brown-Sequard Syndrome - hemiparaplegia
- Encephaloceles - spastic quadriplegia (paralysis of all 4 limbs)
- Fabry's Disease - hemiparesis
- Fahr's Syndrome - spastic paralysis
- Hydranencephaly - spastic quadriparesis
- Incontinentia Pigmenti - slight paralysis
- Kearns-Sayre Syndrome - progressive external ophthalmoplegia
- Klippel Feil Syndrome - paraplegia
- Microcephaly - spastic quadriplegia
- Miller Fisher Syndrome - ophthalmoplegia
- Mobius syndrome - facial paralysis
- Moyamoya Disease - hemiparesis
- Narcolepsy - sleep paralysis
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome Type II - permanent facial paralysis
- Rasmussen's Encephalitis - hemiparesis