Can quadriplegia be cured?
The human body is indeed a complex system consisting of numerous cells, organs and systems working together. This enables humans to survive in many situations and be able to do many things as compared to animals. Body parts such as limbs enable humans to move around using their legs and ability to move things around with their hands. Aside from movement, the sensory part of the limbs helps humans to identify what they are touching or stepping on. This is crucial for human survival. Any hindrance to the limbs will surely cause a person to ask a doctor. One of the issues with limbs is quadriplegia.
Quadriplegia is defined as paralysis in both upper and lower limbs. In short, it is a form of paralysis that happens below the neck which then affects all limbs. Quadriplegia is also known as tetraplegia. Quadriplegia is usually a result from spinal cord or brain injury. It is estimated 500 000 people around the world injure their spinal cord, with 40 to 80 cases per million population ending up with quadriplegia.
Quadriplegia is often a result from damages high in the spinal cord, typically in the cervical spine. There are several causes leading to quadriplegia. Most of these causes are known to cause damage to the cervical vertebrae (the C1-C7 sections of the spine) that are close to the skull, which contain the spinal cord. Most common causes are from injury in vehicle accidents, falls, sports-related and violent crime. Other causes that may lead to quadriplegia are spine tumour, infections to the spinal cord, stroke, cerebral palsy and autoimmune disease such as Guillain-Barré syndrome or multiple sclerosis.
The most prominent symptom of quadriplegia is paralysis in all four limbs, causing inability to move these limbs. However, in some cases such as in incomplete quadriplegia, a person may still retain some functions and/or sensations of the limbs. As mentioned earlier, quadriplegia is caused by injury to any section of C1 to C7. The higher the cervical section is injured, the more severe the effect it will be. For instance, damages to C1 to C3 will cause severe breathing difficulty which typically end up in death when is not managed well. Damages below C4 often have a varying level of paralysis of the limbs. Other symptoms following a quadriplegia are difficulty talking, loss of sensation towards heat or touch, burning pain to the area connected to the damaged nerve, trouble controlling bladder or bowel movement and sexual dysfunction.
Since quadriplegia itself is a terrifying experience and the fact that most may have to live with this condition for a long time, people would wonder if quadriplegia can be cured. Unfortunately, for the time being, there is no cure for quadriplegia. Treatment options available mostly cater to reduce pain and to maximise a person’s quality of life. Symptoms arising from injury to the spinal cord are often permanent. If a nerve is not fully damaged, there might be some chance that movement may still be possible. However, most people with quadriplegia often need extra care as they are not able to do many things on their own as other normal people do. Performing daily tasks such as eating, going to the bathroom, moving around and many other daily activities often needs support from others.
A person with quadriplegia may see life as a never-ending doom but with great support from caregivers and healthcare providers, they still can live a good life. Take a look at Stephen Hawking, bound to a wheelchair for the rest of his life yet able to achieve remarkable scientific discoveries. Those with quadriplegia are advised to routinely follow therapy and medication to improve their symptoms and to help get the best out of the situation. Finding support groups can be another great way to recover from quadriplegia through exchanging insight and experiences.
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