In general, flaccid paralysis is a physical condition in which the human body experiences extreme weakness of the muscle tissue as well as muscle atrophy. Flaccid paralysis can be chronic, with a progressive onset, or acute, which is characterized by a more rapid onset. The weakness of the muscles can impact regular physiological activity such as swallowing and breathing. According to Queensland Health, the term “flaccid” is indicative of the absence of spasticity or other symptoms that would serve as signs of a disordered central nervous system.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Recognizing the symptoms associated with flaccid paralysis will help expedite the diagnosis and treatment of this condition. The general symptom of this condition is acute paralysis in the extremities. The signs and symptoms of this condition will depend greatly on the cause, but some common symptoms are:
Tingling of the palms and soles of the feet, cramps, and sensory loss
Loss of bladder control
A person experiencing these symptoms should not take them lightly; they should immediately seek the help of an experience medical professional who is capable of diagnosing the cause.
Causes of Flaccid Paralysis
One common cause of flaccid paralysis is what is known as anterior spinal artery syndrome, which is the result of the primary spinal artery being blocked. This blockage can be caused by some occurrences, including cancer, arterial disease, thrombosis or spinal cord trauma.
There are other reasons, which include:
Hyperkalemia — resulting from an excess level of potassium in the body
Hypokalemic periodic paralysis — is a genetically inherited muscle condition that is characterized by episodic bouts of paralysis and muscle weakness. These episodes can last for hours or even days.
Central pontine myelinolysis — occurs when the protective layer surrounding the brainstem nerve cells is destroyed, subsequently preventing the brain from sending signals to the nerves in the body.
Treatment Options for Flaccid Paralysis
The first course of action in the treatment process is to determine the cause and the location of the activity surrounding the condition. Once this has been determined through the evaluation and testing process, treatment, which will likely include physical therapy, will be prescribed.
West Nile Virus and Acute Flaccid Paralysis
Due to the peripheral demyelinating process associated with West Nile Virus, the virus has also been related to being a cause of flaccid paralysis. Patients who exhibit symptoms of flaccid paralysis, such as muscle weakness, should be screened for West Nile Virus before they begin treatment for other causes such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
The long-term prognosis for flaccid paralysis will depend on the primacy cause of whether or not there was any permanent arterial or nerve damage around the spine. In most cases, patients will experience significant to full recoveries. The earlier that the condition is diagnosed and treated, the better the long-term outcome.
When the cause is associated with certain neurotropic viruses that impact the neurological process of the body like West Nile virus and those rare polio cases, there can be some complications. According to the Cleveland Clinic, neurotropic viruses have the capacity to cause damage in varying degrees. In instances in which the inflammatory process associated with these type of virus has restricted the result can be as simple as a headache; however, in more severe cases, there can be inflammation of the spinal cord areflexic weakness and more. Again, the sooner the condition is engaged by medical professionals, the better.