How to identify spastic paraparesis and how to treat

Paraparesis is a condition characterized by the inability to partially move the lower limbs, which can happen due to genetic changes, spinal damage or viral infections, resulting in difficulty walking, urinary problems and muscle spasm.

Symptoms can appear at any time in life, with difficulty in walking due to loss of strength and muscular endurance being noticed. In addition, there may be muscle spasms, difficulty with erection and urinary problems.

Paraparesis has no cure, but treatment is essential to improve the person's quality of life and reduce symptoms, and physical activities and physical therapy are indicated.

What causes paraparesis

Partial paralysis of the lower limbs can be classified according to their cause into two main types:

  • Hereditary spastic paraparesis, which is characterized by genetic and hereditary changes that cause damage or progressive degeneration of the nerve pathways. The symptoms of this type of paraparesis can appear at any age, but it usually appears between 10 and 40 years and is characterized by the weakening and progressive stiffening of the legs.
  • Tropical spastic paraparesis, in which partial paralysis of the lower limbs occurs due to infection by the HTLV-1 virus and the symptoms usually take time to appear, being generally noticed between 40 and 50 years.

In addition to the genetic and infectious cause, paraparesis can also occur due to some situation that leads to frequent compression of the limbs or spinal injury, such as car accidents, horse falls and herniated discs, for example, in addition to being able to consequence of multiple sclerosis.

Main symptoms

The symptoms of paraparesis can appear at any time, especially if it is caused by genetic alterations, and the symptoms can appear from the first year of life. The symptoms are progressive and affect the lower limbs, the main ones being:

  • Progressive muscle weakness and stiffness;
  • Muscle spasms, in some cases;
  • Balance difficulties;
  • Urinary problems;
  • Erection dysfunction;
  • Difficulty walking;
  • Back pain that can radiate to the legs.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the person may feel the need to use a crutch or wheelchair, for example. Consultation with an orthopedist or general practitioner is indicated when the first indicative symptoms of paraparesis appear, as this way, it is possible for diagnostic tests to be carried out and treatment to be established, preventing the evolution of the disease.

Usually, paraparesis is diagnosed by excluding diseases with similar symptoms, such as multiple sclerosis, for example, in addition to magnetic resonance imaging of the brain and spinal cord and electromyography, which is an exam that checks muscle and nerves by recording the conduction of the electrical impulse generated by the equipment. Understand how the electromyography is done.

In the case of hereditary paraparesis, genetic tests may be requested to check for the presence of any mutation, as well as family history, so that it can be seen whether close relatives have the alteration or symptoms of the disease.

Is paraplegia the same thing as paraparesis?

Despite indicating paralysis of the lower limbs, paraplegia and paraparesis are different. Paraparesis corresponds to a partial inability to move the lower limbs whose symptoms can appear at any time in life, as the disease can be hereditary or caused by a virus.

In the case of paraplegia, paralysis of the lower limbs is total, that is, the person cannot move his legs at any time, becoming dependent on the wheelchair. This situation usually happens due to spinal cord injuries and results not only in the lack of mobility of the lower limbs, but also inability to control urine and intestines. Understand what paraplegia is.

How the treatment is done

Paraparesis has no cure, so treatment is done with the aim of relieving symptoms, and it is usually recommended by the doctor to use medications capable of relieving pain and muscle spasms that may occur, such as Baclofen, for example. In addition, physiotherapy sessions are recommended.

Physiotherapy is essential in the treatment of paraparesis, as the exercises performed help maintain the mobility of the limbs and stimulate muscle strength, mobility and resistance, in addition to helping to prevent cramps and spasms.