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What Causes Temporary Paralysis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 16 March 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Causes of temporary paralysis can include damage to the brain or nervous system, some rare genetic diseases, reactions to medications, and restrictions of blood flow. When people experience a temporary loss of sensation or motor control in an area of the body, it may need to be evaluated by a doctor, as it is possible that it could turn into a permanent issue. People known to be at risk may be advised about steps they can take to avoid or reduce the chances of developing paralysis.

One cause of this condition is actually entirely natural. When people are in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the body is temporarily paralyzed due to signals sent through the nervous system to prevent problems like kicking out and becoming injured. Sometimes, this system malfunctions and people experience paralysis at different stages of sleep or while awake.

Injuries to the brain and nervous system, including strokes, diabetic neuropathy, and pinched nerves, can all cause temporary paralysis. Some progressive neurodegenerative diseases are associated with periodic paralysis, eventually developing into a permanent problem. Patients who experience impaired sensation along with other neurological symptoms like confusion may need to be evaluated for a brain injury, while people who experience physical trauma like fractures and heavy blows may experience transient paralysis caused by nerve damage.

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Certain medications are paralytics, and may in fact be used specifically for this reason, as seen in general anesthesia. Others are known to cause paralysis or temporary paralysis as a side effect. Patients on these medications are warned about the risk. Another cause of temporary paralysis can be an interruption in blood supply, leading to temporary muscle dysfunction. Restoring the supply of blood should resolve the problem.

Some infections can cause a person to become temporarily paralyzed, as can genetic conditions that may cause people to experience neurological problems in response to environmental factors like cold or heat. Other conditions can interrupt the balance of electrolytes in the body, interfering with nerve function or muscle movements. Paralysis has also been observed in people who are in states of extreme emotional distress. There is nothing functionally wrong with these patients, but they experience temporary paralysis as a stress reaction to a situation.

When a patient develops temporary paralysis, a neurologist can be consulted to conduct a thorough patient evaluation, checking for any obvious causes. The cause may be treatable. The loss of sensation and movement can also potentially be a sign that a progressive medical condition is getting worse.

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Discuss this Article

anon282113
Post 5

Have you ever had temporary paralysis but you could still hear?

wander
Post 4

Does anyone else find that they occasionally get temporary paralysis in their feet or arms from putting too much pressure on them for an extended period of time?

Usually this can be described as the numb feeling you get, which eventually transitions into the terrible pins and needles sensation, when the limb starts to wake up. In the case of my arms, I find they end up paralyzed if I lay on them too long when reading. If this happens to you too you, keeping them raised about heart level can actually help to prevent this and make it go away faster.

popcorn
Post 3

Temporary sleep paralysis is a really interesting phenomenon that most people find pretty scary. Often reports of this natural occurrence show up in people who are claiming alien abduction. Many stories have been told of how people wake up to find themselves frozen in place with things happening around them. Personally, I am doubtful if this is really a case of alien abduction, but rather our brain having trouble adjusting to being between wakefulness and sleep.

I think many of the supernatural or mysterious things that happen to people in this world can be traced backed to scientific reasons that are part of our own biology.

Moldova
Post 2

I know what you mean. It is a feeling that you can’t describe because it really does feel like you are paralyzed because you are really only half a wake.

I know that some people have temporary sleep paralysis on a frequent basis and have to take medication in order to treat this condition. I read that clonazepam and melatonin are really effective. Usually people that take clonazepam start seeing results within a week or two.

Sunny27
Post 1

I've had temporary sleep paralysis. It really feels scary. I read that when this happens your mind is in a different state of REM sleep which is why you are partially awake yet unable to move. This happens to me when I fall asleep in front of the television set. It also happens to me when I have a recurring nightmare that I am being chased through a cave.

In my dream, I try to scream but my voice is muffled somehow. My husband says that I really do make noises but it sounds like a howl and not a scream. It was funny when I finally woke up, but while I was dreaming it felt scary.

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