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.
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.