Blog > June 2024 > Hemiplegia, a complete or incomplete paralysis of half of the body

Hemiplegia, a complete or incomplete paralysis of half of the body

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Hemiplegia is a complete or incomplete paralysis of half of the body that results in significant physical disability. This situation alters the stability, alignment and posture of the body, so that the sufferer is at greater risk of falls or accidents.

Hemiplegia has other consequences. When half of the face and half of the face are paralysed, problems with speaking, communicating or eating may occur. Vision, hearing or memory can also be affected by paralysis.

For this reason, people with hemiplegia must undergo rehabilitation to cope with their new situation and learn how to take care of their body.

Why does hemiplegia occur?

Hemiplegia occurs because a part of the brain is temporarily without adequate blood supply.

This is usually due to a cerebral vascular accident caused by an embolism or a cerebral haemorrhage. In the first case, the lack of blood supply is caused by a clot blocking an artery in the brain; in the second case, a ruptured artery or vein causes a cerebral haematoma.

In addition to cerebral vascular accidents, hemiplegic paralysis can be caused by trauma or diseases affecting the spinal cord or cerebral hemispheres.

Common causes of hemiplegia, in addition to cerebral infarction, include:

Blows or injuries to the head (accidents, falls or birth trauma).

  • Brain tumours.
  • Diabetes.
  • Meningitis.
  • Severe migraines.
  • hereditary diseases such as leukodystrophies (a rare type of disease that affects brain cells, specifically the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells).
  • multiple sclerosis
  • Central nervous system disorders.
  • Sturge-Weber syndrome.
     

Types of hemiplegia

epending on the type of injury and its consequences, we can distinguish between:

  • Cerebral hemiplegia: caused by a brain injury.
  • Spinal hemiplegia: resulting from spinal injuries.
  • Facial hemiplegia: when the paralysis affects only half of the face.
  • Spastic hemiplegia: when the affected half of the body, in addition to paralysis, also experiences spastic movements.

Regardless of its origin, hemiplegia should not be confused with hemiparesis, a neurological condition that causes decreased motor strength or partial paralysis affecting one arm and one leg on the same side of the body.

How is hemiplegia diagnosed? Symptoms

In order to assess the consequences of a stroke, early detection is essential. Radiological tests such as CT or MRI scans are used to confirm such an injury to the brain and spinal cord.

When the lesion is located on the right side of the brain, the part affected by the paralysis will be the left side, and vice versa.

In addition to total or partial paralysis of half of the body, other symptoms related to hemiplegia are:

Problems with walking and balance.
Difficulty holding or grasping objects.
blurred vision
difficulty swallowing
trouble speaking
hearing problems
Loss of sensation in half of the body.
Numbness or tingling of the affected body part.
Loss of bladder and bowel control.
loss of memory
learning difficulties
depression
emotional insecurity

Tratamiento y prevención de la hemiplejia

When a part of the brain does not receive sufficient blood supply, the damage that occurs is irreversible. However, rehabilitative measures can be taken depending on early detection, the area of the brain damaged and the functions affected.

The treatment of hemiplegia is twofold: aetiological and symptomatic. The first focuses on treating the problems that cause the paralysis and the second on adopting pharmacological and rehabilitative measures to reduce disability.

The treatment of hemiplegia may involve neurologists, neurosurgeons or physiotherapists, as well as a team of professionals in the field of psychology.

One of the treatments to reduce the disability caused by cerebral palsy is cognitive-behavioural therapy, which treats disorders at the brain level. This therapy helps the patient to understand his or her situation and gives him or her the tools to come to terms with his or her new condition.

Speech therapy, on the other hand, helps to control the mobility of the mouth and strengthen the muscles of the face. Provided by speech therapists, speech therapists and psychotherapists, it is possible to reinforce words and develop cognitive skills.

Physiotherapy, on the other hand, is essential for patients with paralysis to improve their body mobility and regain strength and balance.

In case of hemiplegia due to stroke, recovery of physical and psychological abilities, although not complete, can take place, at least partially, within a period of 3 to 18 months. After that, it is necessary for the patient to undergo regular tests to monitor, among other things, his or her blood pressure.

Prevention of hemiplegia is not easy, especially when cerebral palsy is related to an accident, a blow, a tumour or a degenerative disease. In these cases, the damage caused by the disorder cannot be prevented.

Pregnant women with certain medical conditions may choose to be admitted to a specialised antenatal clinic for more frequent monitoring to prevent cerebral palsy during delivery.

Finally, having a healthy lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, following a medical check-up schedule and avoiding emotional stress, physical fatigue or lung infections can help prevent cerebral infarction and, with it, paralysis and hemiplegia.