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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.
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.