Managing Hemiplegia After Stroke
Hemiplegia is a side effect of a stroke that causes severe damage to the sensitive neurons present in the brain. Hemiplegia after stroke is the paralysis of an entire side of the body. Depending on the side of the brain that is damaged during a stroke, weakness is experienced in the arms and legs of the opposite side, which translates into complete loss of sensation over a short period of time.
When an individual suffers a stroke, a series of reactions take place in the brain, and other places in the body. A stroke is to the brain what an attack is to the heart. When the arteries supplying blood to the brain are blocked or inflamed, neurons are deprived of the much-needed oxygen to perform essential sensory functions.
When the neurons do not get a fresh supply of blood, they choke to death, leaving behind a damaged brain that is incapable of maintaining balance and coordination in the body. In such a condition, a patient is said to suffer from Hemiplegia after stroke. Even though Hemiplegia diagnosis is carried out after a patient suffers a stroke, it is possible to see its signs when a stroke is predicted.
In children, causes of Hemiplegia also depend on the condition of the brain during birth. If the cerebellum of the brain suffers damage while the child is being delivered, Hemiplegia diagnosis may be needed to determine the extent of injury. However, in most adults the causes of Hemiplegia are related to the many different types of strokes as a result of injury or blockade.
As explained above, any blockade that lodges in the arteries supplying blood to the brain can lead to instant deprivation of oxygen. Such a blockade is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and debris. It is important to note that these compounds may not have accumulated at the site of the lodge; instead the obstruction can also travel from other locations in the body to the small arteries of the brain.
A number of other conditions can increase the chances of a patient suffering from hemiplegia. For instance, having diabetes is known to make a patient more prone to a stroke because this ailment messes up with the normal chemical balance in the body. Similarly, unstable blood pressure levels are also reported to heighten the chances of stroke and hence, hemiplegia.
Aside from these causes, hereditary disorders are also a contributing factor. Leukodystrophies, for instance, is a rare disorder that affects the myelin sheath covering the neurons in the brain. Any damage to this sheath can increase the chances of stroke manifolds.
Types of Hemiplegia After Stroke
There are a number of types of Hemiplegia that one can suffer from. While all these result in paralysis, they effect different parts of the body and vary in extent of injury caused.
Facial Hemiplegia: Facial Hemiplegia is the paralysis on one side of the face. If a patient’s brain is affected just enough for the facial nerves to lose elasticity and function, facial paralysis is the result.
Cerebral Hemiplegia: Cerebral Hemiplegia is a brain lesion that has serious implications for the cerebellum. In this condition, the essential function of the cerebellum- is to control voluntary movements for posture, coordination and speech- gets distorted.
Spastic Hemiplegia: Spastic Hemiplegia is a type of Hemiplegia that mostly affects a person during birth or shortly after. However, it can also be a result of severe head traumas and blockades in the brain. In most such cases, half of the body is weakened and not paralyzed, causing difficulty in moving and walking.
Complications of Hemiplegia after Stroke
Hemiplegia after stroke is itself a complicated condition that cripples patients to a large degree, affecting their ability to carry on day-to-day activities. When it reaches a severe stage, the most common complications of Hemiplegia after stroke can be related to:
Memory: A patient is unable to decipher new information, code it and store it in the relevant part of the brain. Remembering previously memorized or observed information also becomes hard.
Concentration Span: Hemiplegia after stroke forces a patient to lose his concentration and attention span. Being unable to focus on a topic at hand or switch from one conversation to the next quickly are some prominent signs.
Social Communication: This is one of the most devastating complications of Hemiplegia after stroke. The patient feels incapable of taking part in discussions and being a social extrovert. Since body movement is severely affected, social skills and confidence see a setback.
Seizures: Seizures can be controlled through medication but are a painful complication of Hemiplegia after stroke. Suffering from seizures makes managing Hemiplegia after stroke more difficult because this complication can last months and years.
Behaviour: A patient with Hemiplegia after a stroke can become very irritable. With no sensation in half the body, it is easy to lose hope and have emotional outbursts that are an expression of helplessness.
Speech and Language: Slurred speech is another common complication of Hemiplegia after stroke. Since a part of the brain controls the speech and language, any damage to this section can give rise to this complication.
Visual Effects: The brain’s visual control may be affected, leading to impaired sight.
Symptoms of Hemiplegia
Pathophysiology of hemiplegia is seen in the way its symptoms progress. Depending on the severity of the stroke and the side of the brain that is affected, symptoms of hemiplegia vary. Observing and reporting the following symptoms is crucial for hemiplegia diagnosis.
• Difficulty walking; when the paralysis is about to affect the muscles in the legs, an individual feels extreme difficulty in walking. Weakening and tension are the first signs of hemiplegia.
• Loss of balance; while walking, patients feel a loss of balance because their mind and muscles in the body have impaired coordination.
• Difficulty swallowing; eating and swallowing becomes hard. As mentioned previously, hemiplegia after stroke affects half the body. Hence, if half of the efface is paralyzed, swallowing and chewing become uphill tasks.
• Poor vision and deteriorating eyesight are also directly related to hemiplegia after stroke.
• Difficulty speaking; slurred speech is one of the most common symptoms and pathophysiology of hemiplegia that is characterized by an increased difficulty articulating speech.
• Loss of control over the bladder; one prominent symptom of hemiplegia is the loss of bladder control. Since the muscles in the limbs and lower torso are severely affected, patients lose control over bowel movements. Leakage of urine or stool becomes a problem.
• Depression; as a result of the physical signs and symptoms mentioned here, a patient suffering from hemiplegia could become depressed. He avoids conversation and does not interact with people.
• Inability to perform tasks like holding objects, bending down to pick them up or even tying laces. Dressing up is no longer a task they can complete on their own.
• Easily getting panicked or scared. Emotional stability sees a setback when symptoms of hemiplegia start to surface.
Treatment of Hemiplegia
Treatment of Hemiplegia is quite similar to that for recovery from any type of stroke. Most treatment options are focused towards inducing mobility and flexibility on the paralysed side o the body. Since Hemiplegia after stroke restricts movement, therapies are a big part of treatment of Hemiplegia because they help patients manage everyday chores by learning to live with the disabilities if they are irreversible.
Treatment of Hemiplegia should be well rounded so that paralysis after a stroke is not only minimized, but is improved. These options include:
Medicine: Advanced prescription drugs can be used for the Upper Motor Neuron Syndrome. The same drugs are also used to control seizures that are a recurrent problem for those with Hemiplegia after stroke.
Surgery: In the context of Hemiplegia after stroke, surgical procedures are conducted when a patient develops a contracture due to difficulty in movement. Contracture is a sudden shortening of the muscles that suffer from paralysis. This shortening can be treated with surgery during which the affected ligaments are cut from the strained locations. This type of treatment of Hemiplegia can relieve joint pain and also help patients improve on posture using braces.
Physical Therapy: Physical Therapy is the crux of the treatment of Hemiplegia. Since effects of paralysis cannot be reversed in the short term, patients have to go through consistent rehabilitation programs. Physical therapy can help reduce muscle stiffness and improve coordination between different parts of the body. Physiotherapists make Hemiplegia patients go through proven exercise regimes that can help lessen the complications of Hemiplegia. From forced movements to aided walking, physical therapy is the best way to give patients a sense of hope and independence.
Occupational Therapy: Occupational Therapy is another important branch of treating Hemiplegia after stroke. It revolves around making life easier for Hemiplegia patients by giving them alternatives to completing daily chores and fulfilling responsibilities. Hence, this therapy focuses on arms, legs, shoulders and torso. Sensory integration and the use of adaptive equipment is also part of occupational therapy for the treatment of Hemiplegia.