Paraplegia is paralysis of the limbs, starting from the pelvis down. This condition is caused by the loss of movement function (motoric) and sense function (sensory) due to a disorder in the brain or spinal nerves that control the muscles of the pelvis and legs.
Paraplegia can be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause. Unlike paraparesis sufferers who can still move both limbs even though their strength is weakened, paraplegic sufferers cannot move both limbs at all.
Paraplegia is also different from hemiplegia. Hemiplegia is paralysis that occurs on half of the body, starting from the face, arms, and legs.
Causes of Paraplegia
Paraplegia is a condition that is generally caused by injury to the brain or spine due to certain conditions, such as:
- An accident
- Gunshot or stab wounds
- Falls, especially in the elderly who suffer from osteoporosis or osteopenia
In addition, some diseases or medical conditions that can also cause paraplegia include:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Spinal nerve injury
- Hereditary spastic paraplegia
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Spinal cancer or tumor
- Motor nerve diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Spina bifida
- Infections, such as tropical spastic paraparesis and polio
- Spinal nerve disorders, such as syringomyelia
- Decompression sickness
Risk factors for p araplegia
Paraplegia can happen to anyone. However, there are several factors that can increase the risk of a person suffering from paraplegia, namely:
- Aged 65 years and above
- Have bone or joint disorders
- Doing sports or jobs that risk causing spinal cord injury , such as soccer or diving
- Having a history of cancer that can suppress the spinal cord
Symptoms of Paraplegia
The movement process of the lower limbs occurs when the nervous system, namely the brain, spinal cord, and nerve cells, work together with motor functions, sensory functions, and regulatory functions. The movement can happen consciously or unconsciously.
Paraplegia occurs as a result of disturbances in the movement process of the lower limbs. This condition can occur suddenly (acute) or gradually (chronic).
Some of the symptoms that can be caused by this condition are:
- Prolonged pain
- Paralysis or numbness in the lower limbs
- Uncontrollable defecation and urination
- Difficulty having sex
- Difficult to walk
- Wounds on the skin due to not being able to change position
If viewed based on its effects and symptoms, paraplegia is divided into two types, namely:
- Spastic paraplegia, which is when the muscles of the body in the part experiencing paralysis are in a stiff and tense condition
- Flaccid paraplegia, which is when the muscles of the body in the paralyzed part are in a limp and drooping state
When should you go to the doctor?
Check with a doctor if you experience the above symptoms, especially if the symptoms occur suddenly, after an accident, or are accompanied by difficulty breathing. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the possibility of complications.
If you have been diagnosed with paraplegia, follow the therapy given by the doctor and do periodic examinations regularly so that your condition is always monitored.
Diagnosis of Paraplegia
To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will ask questions and answers about the complaints experienced, as well as the health history of the patient and his family. The doctor will also perform a physical examination, especially a neurological examination .
After that, the doctor can perform several supporting examinations, such as X-ray, CT scan, or MRI , to find out the cause of paraplegia. Next, the doctor will conduct an electromyography (EMG), in order to check the contraction of the muscles of the lower limbs.
Treatment of Paraplegia
Paraplegia is generally incurable. However, in a small number of cases, treatment can improve the ability of paraplegic patients to move their lower limbs. Treatment can also relieve symptoms and complaints experienced by patients.
The treatment of paraplegia will be tailored to the cause and which nerve is affected. The following are some treatment methods that can be given by the doctor:
If there is inflammation in the spinal nerves, the doctor will give corticosteroid drugs , such as prednisone, to reduce the inflammation.
The operation aims to remove bone fragments, foreign bodies, and bone pads that are pressing on nerves.
Therapies that can be given to paraplegic patients include:
- Physiotherapy , to help improve muscle strength and the patient's ability to move
- Occupational therapy , to improve the patient's ability to perform daily activities independently
Complications of Paraplegia
Paraplegic patients will lose control of movement (motor) and senses (sensory) in the lower body so that it can cause the appearance of some of the following complications:
- Muscle atrophy
- Urinary tract infection
- Digestive disorders
- Pressure ulcers ( decubitus ulcers )
- Blood clots in the blood vessels of the legs ( deep vein thrombosis )
- Stress and depression due to limited ability in physical activity
Prevention of Paraplegia
Paraplegia is not easily prevented, because the condition can be caused by various diseases. However, there are several efforts that can be made to reduce the risk of paraplegia, namely:
- Using the right personal protective equipment (PPE) when exercising, driving, and doing jobs that risk causing injury
- Check your health regularly , especially if you suffer from a condition that can cause paraplegia
- Implement a clean and healthy lifestyle ( PHBS ) to prevent stroke and infection