Paralysis is a general term used to describe the loss of movements and/or sensation following damage to the nervous system. Knowing the precise level of the injury is helpful in predicting which parts of the body will be affected by paralysis and loss of function.
Paraplegia is a condition in which the lower part of a person’s body is paralyzed and cannot willfully function. It is usually the result of spinal cord injury or a congenital condition such as spina bifida, but polyneuropathy may also result in paraplegia. If the arms are also paralyzed, quadriplegia is a more appropriate diagnosis.
Paraplegia describes complete or incomplete paralysis affecting the legs and possibly also the trunk, but not the arms. The extent to which the trunk is affected depends on the level of spinal cord injury. Paraplegia is the result of damage to the cord at T1 and below.
Injuries at the thoracic level and below result in paraplegia, with the hands not affected. At T-1 to T-8 there is most often control of the hands, but poor trunk control as the result of lack of abdominal muscle control. Lower T-injuries (T-9 to T-12) allow good truck control and good abdominal muscle control. Sitting balance is very good. Lumbar and Sacral injuries yield decreasing control of the hip flexors and legs.
Besides a loss of sensation or motor functioning, people with SCI also experience other changes. For example, they may experience dysfunction of the bowel and bladder, Sexual functioning is frequently impaired or lost with SCI. Men may have their fertility affected, while a women’s fertility is generally not affected. Other effects of SCI may include low blood pressure, inability to regulate blood pressure effectively, reduced control of body temperature, inability to sweat below the level of injury, and chronic pain.
Complications of Paraplegia:
Complications of paraplegia include:
- Skin care issues
- Loss of bladder control
- Loss of bowel control
- Loss of sensory function
- Loss of motor function