What Is Hemiplegia?

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Overview

Hemiplegia is the paralysis of one side of your body (right or left), following an injury or damage to the central nervous system.1 

Hemiplegia can be permanent or temporary. Hemiplegia paralysis can be an indicator of a further imminent stroke or a symptom of a less severe condition.1  

Imagine this, one side of the body's left hemiplegia or right has muscle weakness. Our spinal cord is a division between the animated side and a complete limp. So, hemiplegia is a movement disorder.1  

We figured out that due to brain damage, the muscles are compromised by being paralysed. One thing we should know about the muscles is that facial muscles are also affected during hemiapelgia. Yes Indeed! Our facial muscles can be weakened by the lack of movement. The paralysis depends on the degree of the severity.1  

Types of hemiplegia 

Before going about the different types of hemiplegia, spastic hemiplegia cerebral palsy is a movement disorder that involves the inability to move one side of the body and indicates brain damage.2 

In the paralysis world, the location of the paralysis can be as general as covering the large areas of the body but this is small and targets areas like the face, foot and hands.2

Hemiplegia is the paralysis that we are going to know more about. This type of paralysis occurs only on one side of the body.3 

Causes of hemiplegia

When saying that hemiplegia is triggered by traumatic brain injury, we need to know a bit more about how traumatic it can be. Hemiplegia is associated with vascular haemorrhages such as cerebral haemorrhages. Hemiplegic Cerebral palsy is a disorder characteristic that relates to movement disorder.4  

The causes of congenital hemiplegia are unknown and often manifest during childhood.5 

Now the emphasis is on brain damage so, we need to know how and in what way the brain was damaged. Hemiplegia is linked to having a stroke. A stroke occurs in multiple ways: it could be from internal bleeding caused by blood clots (abnormally high levels of blood blocked inside a blood vessel), brain injury due to an accident, or even due to brain infections. Some patients may experience hemiplegic migraine. Either way, the motor function is less responsive than it is typically required.5     

Here is a more realistic list of what could be causing hemiplegia;1 

  • Aneurysm 
  • Concussion due to brain damage 
  • Spinal cord injuries 
  • Brain tumour6  
  • Migraine7  

Signs and symptoms of hemiplegia

The loss of motor function results in loss of memory, sensation and cognition.7  

Hemiplegia can mostly be interfering with hemiparesis which is a sign of muscle weakness (spasticity) and the inability to move that goes well with hemiplegia.7 

We can assume that when it comes to noticing the signs and symptoms a patient with hemiplegia will have difficulties with walking and clutching objects. These symptoms are due to the poor motor function that results from one-side paralysis.7   

Management and treatment for hemiplegia

To manage the loss of motor function from hemiplegia, occupational therapy or any form of rehabilitation after suffering from a stroke is recommended. Therapeutic methods take several months for stroke survivors.8 

The affected side of the brain is monitored to simply assess the brain’s function. It has been shown that increasing the activity of the brain during occupational therapy can be effective.8  

During the several months of recovery, physical therapy emphasises reorganising in the neurology of the stroke survivors.8  

Before selecting the treatment it is mandatory to know what are the symptoms and causes to suggest an effective treatment.  

It is best to consult healthcare professionals to formulate a proper treatment plan as it will be different for each case.1 

Diagnosis of hemiplegia

A diagnosis of hemiplegia just summarises into brain injury such as stroke. The diagnosis proceeds with a test to see if the affected side of the brain is bleeding to know what type of stroke the patient suffered from.9   

The diagnostic tests are CT scans to have a visual of the patient’s brain. An MRI is also used to observe brain tissues and their cells. The other tests focus more on the blood vessels to look for blood clots.9

Hemiparesis diagnosis is similar to physical therapy as it tests the  patient’s reflexes and supervises muscle activity. A full blood count is also taken to check for the blood counts and platelets.10    

FAQs

Can hemiplegia be prevented?

Hemiplegia cannot be prevented as we don't know when we will experience a brain injury. Conditions like elevated blood pressure and type 2 diabetes can lead to stroke injuries. However, by eating clean and maintaining our weight we can help reduce the risks of having a stroke.1 

Brain infections may also initiate strokes. Therefore it is vital to treat the infection before it spreads through the brain. 

Lastly, avoid the chance of getting a head injury by purchasing protective equipments.1

How common is hemiplegia

Hemiplegia is a rare condition that affects  one in 1,000 children with 80% of the cases being congenital hemiplegia.5 

Unilateral cerebral palsy occurs later in life in developing paralysis in one side of the body.5  

Who are at risk of hemiplegia?

What we know about congenital hemiplegia and who can mostly get it during pregnancy or in early childhood. The hemiplegia results in premature infants.5 

Acquired hemiplegia is a result of brain injury in people who get blood clots, infection in the brain and accidents/ incidents and getting injuries. This means anyone with a brain injury can be at risk of acquired hemiplegia.5 

What can I expect if I have hemiplegia?

You can expect to feel heavy and tired along with having stiff muscles. Some people have described that it feels like they are wearing thick gloves when they are touching objects.5  

Children with hemiplegia will take a while to start talking and walking.5 

Hemiplegia will not get worse nor will it change much. Children with hemiplegia need more support from their school andteachers.5  

People with hemiplegia can drive if the driving is tailored to their needs.5  

Summary

So let's sum up what we have learned about this complex paralysis condition. Hemiplegia is paralysis of one side of the body. Hemiplegia can be triggered due to brain injury, this is known as acquired hemiplegia. Children can also be born with hemiplegia (congenital hemiplegia). The most basic diagnosis is done by CT and MRI scans. We have so much to learn from this type of paralysis and hopefully, in the near future we will be able to find a potential treatment to cure the condition.

References

  1. Hemiplegia: definition, causes, symptoms & treatment [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2023 Apr 8]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/23542-hemiplegia
  2. Spastic hemiplegia cerebral palsy | causes and treatment [Internet]. Cerebral Palsy Guidance. [cited 2023 Apr 8]. Available from: https://www.cerebralpalsyguidance.com/cerebral-palsy/types/spastic-hemiplegia/
  3. Paralysis: what is it, diagnosis, management & prevention [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2023 Apr 8]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15345-paralysis
  4. Armata NN. Hemiplelgia [Internet]. Osmosis . 2022. Available from: https://www.osmosis.org/answers/Hemiplegia
  5. Hemiplegia | Information & support [Internet]. Contact. [cited 2023 Apr 8]. Available from: https://contact.org.uk/help-for-families/information-advice-services/hemihelp/what-is-hemiplegia/
  6. Brain and spine tumour rehabilitation [Internet]. Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. [cited 2023 Apr 8]. Available from: https://www.froedtert.com/brain-spine-tumor/rehabilitation
  7. Kumar A, Samanta D, Emmady PD, Arora R. Hemiplegic migraine. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Apr 8]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513302/
  8. How to improve fine motor skills affected by neurologic disorders [Internet]. [cited 2023 Apr 8]. Available from: https://www.brainandlife.org/articles/a-loss-of-fine-motor-skills-is-a-common-symptom
  9. Stroke - diagnosis | nhlbi, nih [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Apr 8]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/stroke/diagnosis
  10. What are hemiplegia and hemiparesis? [Internet]. Verywell Health. [cited 2023 Apr 8]. Available from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/information-about-hemiplegia-3146139
  11. Overview of brain infections - brain, spinal cord, and nerve disorders [Internet]. MSD Manual Consumer Version. [cited 2023 Apr 8]. Available from: https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-gb/home/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/brain-infections/overview-of-brain-infections

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Suruthy Mary Joseph

Bachelor in Biomedical Science (IBMS)- BSc in University of Portsmouth

Suruthy has established 10 years of education in medical science and provides a strong writing background in advanced medical research. Suruthy undertook projects of her own and succeeded in Biomedical data. She is still eager to research and undercover clinical trials to educate the general public on various health problems and benefits. She incorporates her knowledge of traditional natural remedies in her research and writing. She is currently writing essays on various diseases at Klarity.

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