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Hemiplegia – Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Hemiplegia is a condition that affects one-half of the human body. It is the paralysis of the muscles of the arms and legs of one side of the body, and also of the lower face.

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Stroke is said to be the most common cause of hemiplegia, damaging the corticospinal tracts in one side (or hemisphere) of the brain.

This results in the paralysis of the opposite side of the body. For instance, a stroke in the left hemisphere of the body paralyzes the right side of the body and vice versa.

Other causes of hemiplegia include physical trauma such as head and spinal cord injury, brain infections like meningitis, and brain tumors. Symptoms of the ailment include weeks, difficulty control the muscles, and stiffness of the muscle.

Hemiplegia is often used interchangeably with hemiparesis as both produce similar symptoms. An individual living with hemiparesis experiences a weak paralysis on one side of the body, while hemiplegia may cause the person to experience full paralysis on one side of their body, as well as difficulty breathing or speaking.

Hemiplegia differs from cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a variety of movement disorders that mostly affects children. It develops either before birth or a few years after birth.

Cerebral palsy cannot affect adults. There is no cure for hemiplegia. Treatment of the ailment is by focusing on the underlying causes of the condition and the use of therapy to recover motor function.

Types of Hemiplegia

Facial hemiplegia

Hemiplegia, in this instance, paralyzes the muscles of one side of the face. It may also be coupled with weak hemiplegia on that side of the body.

Spinal hemiplegia

Spinal hemiplegia is also known as Brown-Sequard syndrome. The ailment affects one side of the spinal cord, and this results in the paralysis of that side of the body. Spinal hemiplegia causes pain and a hot and cold sensation on the opposite side of the body.

Spastic hemiplegia

Spastic hemiplegia is a type of cerebral palsy that typically affects one side of the body. It a contraction in the muscles of the affected side.

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Childhood hemiplegia

This is a type of hemiplegia that affects children less than 18 months old. Childhood hemiplegia causes recurring episodes of hemiplegia that affect one side or both sides of the body.

Causes of Hemiplegia

Stroke

A stroke is the most prevalent cause of hemiparesis. The severity of the condition depends on the size and location of the stroke. Fetal strokes, which occur in the womb, are the most common cause of hemiplegia in children.

Brain infections

Brain infection is capable of causing permanent damage to the brain. Brain infections like those caused by bacteria (such as meningitis) can be fatal to the brain. Other brain infections caused by viral or fungal agents can cause hemiplegia.

Trauma

A sudden blunt force trauma may lead to permanent damage in the brain. Hemiplegia can develop if the trauma affects one side of the brain. Car collisions, assaults, and sports injuries are common causes of trauma.

Brain Tumor

Tumors in the brain can cause a number of physical problems in the brain, such as hemiplegia. Symptoms of hemiplegia exacerbate as the tumor increases.

Signs and Symptoms of Hemiplegia

Symptoms of hemiplegia range from one person to another and are dependent on the severity of the condition. Symptoms of hemiplegia include:

  • Impaired motor skills
  • Difficulty grasping or holding on to objects
  • Weakness of muscles or stiffness on one side of the body
  • Permanently contracted muscles or muscle spasticity
  • Poor balance
  • Difficulty walking

Hemiplegia in Children

Hemiplegia in children is a form of cerebral palsy that occurs as a result of damage to the hemisphere of the brain that controls muscle movements in one side of the body.

The damage may occur before, during, or shortly after birth. Symptoms of childhood hemiplegia differ from one child to another, and they include:

  • Weakness in the muscles of one side of the body
  • Favoring one hand during play before the age of 3
  • Poor motor skills with tasks like writing or using scissors
  • Keeping one hand in a fist
  • Poor balance and difficulty walking
  • Delayed in reaching developmental milestones like crawling, sitting up, smiling, or rolling over.

Strokes and brain injuries are the most common causes of hemiplegia in a child. These can have other effects on the child that are not specific to hemiplegia. They include:

  • Memory: This usually involves difficulty with encoding, storing, and retrieving new information.
  • Problems with concentration: The child may have issues focusing and sustaining attention for long periods of time. The child may find it challenging to filter out distractions in the classroom. The child may also have difficulty switching from one topic or activity to another.
  • Sensory Effects: The child may have visual difficulties with impaired coordination of both eyes. The hearing may also be affected.
  • Speech problems: Depending on the age of the child, and the cause and severity of the injury, the child may have issues with speech. These include a lack of speech or delayed speech. These, however, may improve with time.
  • Social Communication: Cognitive, linguistic, and social skills are required to communicate with others. These can, however, be impaired by an early brain injury. The child may find it challenging to interpret social cues, shifting topics and conversation, organizing ideas, and applying rules of social behavior.
  • Seizures: These may develop immediately after the injury, months, or sometimes years later. The seizures can be controlled using medication in some cases.
  • Behavior: The child may experience mood swings, agitation, apathy, emotional and behavioral outbursts, and irritability.

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Treatment

The treatment option for the condition is dependent on the cause of hemiplegia and how severe the symptoms are.

People living with hemiplegia usually undergo a combination of rehabilitation therapy, which typically involves physical therapists, mental health professionals, and rehabilitation therapists. The following are treatment options for hemiplegia:

Physiotherapy

This involves working closely with a physiotherapist with the goal of developing balance, improving coordination, and building strength. The physiotherapist also helps to stretch out tight muscles.

Assistant technology

The use of assistive technology may help improve muscular control and mobility. Examples of these include wheelchairs, walkers, brace, and canes. It is necessary to consult with a healthcare professional to know which device is most suitable for you.

Electrical stimulation

This would require the use of electrical pads to stimulate muscular movement. This can be performed by a medical professional. The electricity from the pads allows the muscles that cannot be moved to contract.

This type of technology aims to reduce the imbalance in the affected side of the brain.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Victor Anunobi
Victor Anunobi is an environmentalist, writer and movie enthusiast living in the city of Lagos, Nigeria. He enjoys long walks, food and alternative music.

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