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WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America
WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America

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Paralysis of the Extremities

Description: Loss or impairment of motor function that results from damage to parts of the nervous system, paralysis is a symptom -- not an actual disease -- of various physical and emotional disorders.

Symptoms: If the central nervous system is damaged, paralysis frequently affects the movement of a limb as a whole, not the individual muscles. Common forms of central paralysis are hemiplegia, in which one side of the body is affected, including the face, arm and leg. In paraplegia, both legs and sometimes the trunk are affected. In central paralysis, the tone of the muscles is increased. If the peripheral nervous system is damaged, individual muscles or groups of muscles in a particular part of the body, rather than a whole limb, are more likely to be affected. The muscles are flaccid, and there is often impairment of sensation.

Number of Americans diagnosed: There are an estimated 50 million Americans affected by diseases or disorders of the spinal cord and brain, and there are 250,000 to 400,000 spinal-cord-injured individuals in the United States.

Long-term problems/treatments: Stroke syndrome is one of the most common causes of central paralysis. Although there is usually some permanent disability, much can be done to rehabilitate the patient. Paralysis produced by damage to the spinal cord can be the result of direct injuries, tumors, and infectious diseases.
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