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What is Hemiparesis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Hemiparesis is a condition characterized by weakness in one side of the body. It is related to hemiplagia, in which one side of the body is actually paralyzed, rather than simply weakened. There are a variety of reasons for people to develop hemiparesis, with the condition usually occurring as a secondary complication of another medical problem. Treatment options vary, depending on why the patient has developed hemiparesis.

The muscle weakness characteristic of hemiparesis can be caused by lesions in the spinal cord which damage the nerves which innervate those muscles, leading to weakness. Damage to the brain can also lead to muscle weakness. Stroke is one of the classic reasons for people to develop hemiparesis, and sometimes muscle weakness is one of the key symptoms of stroke which brings patients to the hospital.

Damage to the brain due to head injuries, cancerous growths in the brain, or disease can also lead to the development of muscle weakness. The muscle weakness will appear in the side of the body which corresponds to the area of the brain which has been damaged. Damage to the spinal cord can include damage caused by trauma, as in the case of a car accident, fall, or wound sustained during a fight. Conditions such as multiple sclerosis and some cancers can also cause lesions on the spinal cord which interfere with the function of the nerves.

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When a patient presents with hemiparesis, the first step is to determine the origins of the muscle weakness. Medical imaging studies can be used to isolate the location of the damage, and the patient will also typically be interviewed to collect a medical history for the purpose of identifying obvious risk factors. If a patient says that he or she has multiple sclerosis, for example, the doctor will likely attribute the hemiparesis to this condition and may conduct tests to confirm.

Treatment can include treatment of the underlying condition with the goal of resolving the hemiparesis or halting its progress. Physical therapy is also an important part of treatment. Therapy helps patients regain control of their muscles and develop more muscle strength. A physical therapist can also provide a patient with adaptive tips and tricks which will help the patient navigate a world which has been designed for people with full muscle strength in both sides of the body. Assistive devices such as braces, walkers, and wheelchairs can also be used to help patients who experience difficulty walking as a result of hemiparesis.

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medicchristy
Post 2

@grumpyguppy- I'm very glad to hear that your aunt is doing better. We had a similar situation with my dad except his hemiparesis is on the right side instead of left hemiparesis like your aunt. He also went through extensive physical therapy. He has to walk with a cane now.

His biggest complaint right now is the facial hemiparesis that he is still experiencing. Apparently, there is not as many therapy options for the face as there are the rest of the body. The right side of his mouth still droops and he sometimes has a hard time eating. Hopefully, he will continue to improve.

GrumpyGuppy
Post 1

My aunt had a stroke several months ago which left her with left side hemiparesis. It was devastating for her because she loved working outside in her garden. However, we were thankful that it wasn't paralysis.

She went through physical therapy for several months and we are so grateful and thankful to say that she is now walking again and has even dabbled in her garden a little. She is still weak on her left side but her condition has greatly improved.

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