AskDefine | Define paralysis

Dictionary Definition

paralysis n : loss of the ability to move a body part [syn: palsy] [also: paralyses (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A condition where the sufferer loses voluntary control of part of their body, such as one or more limbs.


Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Paralysed redirects here. For other uses see Paralysed (disambiguation)
Paralysis is the complete loss of muscle function for one or more muscle groups. Paralysis can cause loss of feeling in the affected area.


Paralysis is most often caused by damage to the nervous system or brain, especially the spinal cord. Partial paralysis can also occur in the REM stage of sleep. Major causes are stroke, trauma, poliomyelitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), botulism, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Poisons that interfere with nerve function, such as curare, can also cause paralysis. Many causes of this is well vary, and could also be unknown.


Paralysis may be localized, or generalized, or it may follow a certain pattern. For example, localized paralysis occurs in Bell's palsy where one side of the face may be paralyzed due to inflammation of the facial nerve on that side. Patients with stroke may be weak throughout their body (global paralysis) or have hemiplegia (weakness on one side of the body) or other patterns of paralysis depending on the area of damage in the brain. Other patterns of paralysis arise due to different lesions and their sequelae. For example, lower spinal cord damage from a severe back injury may result in paraplegia, while an injury higher up on the spinal cord, such as a neck injury, can cause quadriplegia. Patients with paraplegia or quadriplegia often use equipment such as a wheelchair or standing frame for mobility and to regain some independence.
Most paralyses caused by nervous system damage are constant in nature; however, there are forms of periodic paralysis, including sleep paralysis, which are caused by other factors.

Paralysis in the animal world

Many species of animals use paralyzing toxins in order to capture prey, evade predation, or both. One famous example is the tetrodotoxin of fish species such as Takifugu rubripes, the famously lethal pufferfish of Japanese fugu. This toxin works by binding to sodium channels in nerve cells, preventing the cells' proper function. A non-lethal dose of this toxin results in temporary paralysis. This toxin is also present in many other species ranging from toads to nemerteans. Another interesting use of paralysis in the natural world is the behavior of some species of wasp. In order to complete the reproductive cycle, the female wasp first paralyzes a prey item such as a grasshopper and then places it into her nest. Eggs are then laid on the paralyzed insect, which is devoured by the larvae after they hatch. Many snakes also exhibit powerful neurotoxins that can cause non-permanent paralysis or death.
Paralysis can be seen in breeds of dogs that are chondrodysplastic. These dogs have short legs, and may also have short muzzles. Their intervertebral disc material can calcify and become more brittle. In such cases, the disc may rupture, with disc material ending up in the spinal canal, or rupturing more laterally to press on spinal nerves. A minor rupture may only result in paresis, but a major rupture can cause enough damage to result in complete paralysis. If no signs of pain can be elicited, surgery should be performed within 24 hours of the incident, to remove the disc material and relieve pressure on the spinal cord. After 24 hours, the chance of recovery declines rapidly, since with continued pressure, the spinal cord tissue deteriorates and dies.
Another type of paralysis is caused by a fibrocartilaginous embolism. This is a microscopic piece of disc material that breaks off and becomes lodged in a spinal artery. Nerves served by the artery will die when deprived of blood. The German Shepherd is especially prone to developing degenerative myelopathy. This is a deterioration of nerves in the spinal cord, starting in the posterior part of the cord. Dogs so affected will become gradually weaker in the hind legs as nerves die off. Eventually their hind legs become useless. They often also exhibit fecal and urinary incontinence. As the disease progresses, the paresis and paralysis gradually move forward. This disease also affects other large breeds of dogs. It is suspected to be an autoimmune problem.
Cats with heart murmurs may develop blood clots which travel through arteries. If the clot is large enough to block one or both femoral arteries, there may be hind leg paralysis because the major source of blood flow to the hind leg is blocked.
paralysis in Aymara: Such'u
paralysis in Bengali: পক্ষাঘাত
paralysis in Czech: Ochrnutí
paralysis in German: Lähmung
paralysis in Spanish: Parálisis
paralysis in French: Paralysie
paralysis in Croatian: Paraliza
paralysis in Italian: Paralisi
paralysis in Hebrew: שיתוק
paralysis in Dutch: Verlamming
paralysis in Japanese: 麻痺
paralysis in Norwegian: Lammelse
paralysis in Polish: Porażenie
paralysis in Portuguese: Paralisia
paralysis in Russian: Паралич
paralysis in Simple English: Paralysis
paralysis in Finnish: Halvaus

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

a wise passiveness, abscess, ague, anemia, ankylosis, anoxia, apnea, apoplexy, asphyxiation, asthma, ataxia, atrophy, backache, bleeding, blennorhea, cachexia, cachexy, catalepsy, cataplexy, chill, chills, colic, constipation, contemplation, contemplative life, convulsion, coughing, cyanosis, diarrhea, diplegia, dizziness, do-nothing policy, do-nothingism, do-nothingness, dormancy, dropsy, dysentery, dyspepsia, dyspnea, edema, emaciation, fainting, fatigue, fever, fibrillation, flux, growth, hemiplegia, hemorrhage, high blood pressure, hydrops, hypertension, hypotension, icterus, idleness, immobility, inaction, inactivity, indigestion, indolence, inertia, inertness, infantile paralysis, inflammation, insomnia, itching, jaundice, labored breathing, laissez-aller, laissez-faire, laissez-faireism, low blood pressure, lumbago, marasmus, meditation, nasal discharge, nausea, necrosis, neutralism, neutrality, neutralness, noninvolvement, nonparticipation, nonresistance, nonviolence, nonviolent resistance, pacifism, pain, palsy, paraplegia, paresis, passive resistance, passive self-annihilation, passiveness, passivism, passivity, policy, polio, poliomyelitis, procrastination, pruritus, quiescence, quietism, rash, rheum, sclerosis, seizure, sensory paralysis, shock, skin eruption, sneezing, sore, spasm, stagnancy, stagnation, standpattism, stasis, stroke, tabes, tachycardia, tumor, upset stomach, vegetation, vertigo, vita contemplativa, vomiting, waiting game, wasting, watching and waiting
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