How common is paralysis?

Paralysis isn’t as rare as some people think. Well over 5 million Americans—one out of every 50 people—has some form of paralysis and two-thirds of them are aged between 18 and 64. Chances are good that you know someone affected by paralysis, whether it’s family, close friends, or in your circle of acquaintances. There are different types of paralysis and not all are permanent. You may not recognize some conditions as paralysis.

Leading causes of paralysis

One-third of those who are paralyzed have been affected by stroke. It’s the leading cause of paralysis, followed by spinal cord injury. These two conditions account for about 61% of patients affected, yet paralysis only keeps about 42% of patients from working.

You can also become paralyzed if you have a condition that attacks the myelin sheath, a protective coating around nerve cells. This deterioration interferes with the neurons’ ability to transmit signals. Multiple sclerosis is the most common demyelinating disease.

Motor neuron diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease), damage neurons and prevent them from controlling muscles.

Usually, muscles aren’t the source of paralysis. The signal from the brain that triggers movement is absent. Muscular dystrophy is an exception. It results in paralysis due to changes in the muscles which make them weak, breaking down the muscle tissue over time. 

Types and degrees of paralysis

Paralytic effects are usually described by how much and what parts of the body are affected. Paralysis conditions include:

When a single part of your body is affected, it’s referred to as local paralysis. Common spots for local paralysis are the vocal cords, hands, feet, and face. Generalized paralysis is regional and defined by how much of the body is affected. Generalized paralysis conditions include:

Locked-in syndrome is the most severe form of paralysis, where all muscle control is lost except for those that control the eyes. It’s also the rarest form of paralysis.

If you have a paralytic condition that would benefit from a prosthetic, then Ortho Engineering Inc. is the place to start. A leading-edge manufacturer of prosthetics and orthotics, for adults and children, Ortho Engineering has nine locations throughout Southern California. Call the office closest to you to find out more about our services.

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