What is Paraparesis?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Spinal cord trauma or infection can cause paraparesis.
Spinal cord trauma or infection can cause paraparesis.

Paraparesis is a neurological condition characterized by weakness or partial paralysis in the lower limbs. There are a number of causes for this condition. It usually cannot be cured, although it can be managed, and patients can receive assistance to improve quality of life and to help them retain muscle tone in their legs. Individuals who have the condition may also be entitled to government disability benefits in recognition of the challenges they may face as a result.

Physical therapy may be an option for a person with paraparesis to combat weakness and build muscle strength.
Physical therapy may be an option for a person with paraparesis to combat weakness and build muscle strength.

One form is familial paraparesis, also known as familial spastic paraparesis or hereditary spastic paraplegia. This condition is genetic in nature, and characterized by progressive nerve degeneration. Initially, the patient may experience some weakness, numbing, and tingling sensations, and the condition gradually grows worse over time. People with a family history of this condition can develop it and pass it on to their children.

Some sufferers of paraparesis may require an assistive device, such as a walker.
Some sufferers of paraparesis may require an assistive device, such as a walker.

In tropical spastic paraparesis, the condition is caused by a human t-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) infection in the spinal cord, which causes nerve damage. Even if the infection is managed, the damage will be permanent and progressive. Patients can experience an onset of symptoms as late as 30 years after the initial infection, which means that people who have traveled in tropical areas may not immediately make a connection between their neurological problems and their travels, which can make the condition more difficult to diagnose and treat.

Tropical spastic paraparesis, which causes nerve damage, is caused by a T-lymphotropic virus infection of the spinal cord.
Tropical spastic paraparesis, which causes nerve damage, is caused by a T-lymphotropic virus infection of the spinal cord.

People can also experience weakness or paralysis as a result of nerve damage caused by trauma, as well as other types of infections in the spinal cord. Depending on the severity of the damage, the patient may be able to engage in light physical activity, or may need assistive devices, such as canes, walkers, or wheelchairs, to navigate the world successfully. Patients may opt to work with a physical therapist or a specialist in assistive devices to learn about their options.

A mother can transmit the HTLV infection to her baby through breast milk.
A mother can transmit the HTLV infection to her baby through breast milk.

A neurologist can diagnose paraparesis, determine the cause, and offer treatment recommendations. Physical therapy may be recommended to help patients retain muscle strength and prevent contractures that could cause pain and additional disability. Medications can be used to manage symptoms, such as inflammation,which may be associated with some forms. The patient will need to attend routine neurological exams for life to monitor the progress of the condition and identify any complications that emerge before they become a serious problem. In some cases, the patient may also experience urinary or fecal incontinence, which will need to be managed.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon341483

My sister (47) has been diagnosed with paraparesis in one leg and is taking medication. What are her chances to recover and how much time it would take to cure completely?

anon276774

I received Mantel radiation in 1977 for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. In 2008, after the Hodgkin's came back stage 4AES, I then received ABVD, IGev, BEAM and an autologous stem cell transplant.

In October 2011, I could not move my right leg. After a spinal cord biopsy, it was found that the radiation in 1977 caused radiation-induced spinal cord necrosis. I received steroids and physical therapy. My condition presents like Brown Sequard Syndrome. What other medications could be recommended for the pain, temperature changes and hypersensitivity?

anon245976

Yes it is possible to only have symptoms of a crushed spinal cord where only portions of the cord are affected, say from cancer.

anon237307

It is possible to have paraparesis in only one leg or one side of the body? When this happens to only one leg, it is called Monoparesis. When it occurs to one whole side of the body, it is called Hemiparesis.

sherlock87

@anon125280 I have never known of someone having paraparesis, or paraplegia, in only one leg. I believe if this happens then it is called something else, and likely has a different cause as well, since paraplegia often relates to the spine and therefore would affect both sides of the body.

anon125280

is it possible for paraparesis to affect only one leg? Please answer this question. It is very important for me to know this.

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    • Spinal cord trauma or infection can cause paraparesis.
      Spinal cord trauma or infection can cause paraparesis.
    • Physical therapy may be an option for a person with paraparesis to combat weakness and build muscle strength.
      Physical therapy may be an option for a person with paraparesis to combat weakness and build muscle strength.
    • Some sufferers of paraparesis may require an assistive device, such as a walker.
      Some sufferers of paraparesis may require an assistive device, such as a walker.
    • Tropical spastic paraparesis, which causes nerve damage, is caused by a T-lymphotropic virus infection of the spinal cord.
      Tropical spastic paraparesis, which causes nerve damage, is caused by a T-lymphotropic virus infection of the spinal cord.
    • A mother can transmit the HTLV infection to her baby through breast milk.
      A mother can transmit the HTLV infection to her baby through breast milk.
    • Physical therapy may be necessary to help patients with paraparesis gain muscle strength.
      Physical therapy may be necessary to help patients with paraparesis gain muscle strength.