Updated: Apr 12
What is Monoplegia and Its Effects on the Body
A form of paralysis that affects only one limb in your body, monoplegia can often be detected in a patient’s arm or leg. Sometimes it can just be temporary while other times it can cause permanent damage.
Most people with monoplegia can take care of themselves and perform daily living tasks, and this is considered a good sign as this disease can severely impede tasks causing the affected limb to gradually deteriorate, get weak, and limp. If not treated effectively, over time, this can lead to a part of the whole limb getting fully paralyzed.
Your body has an extensive set of nerve cells that move your muscles around besides operating several other functions. These include movements that you can control or voluntary and those you can’t control or involuntary movements. When these nerves become damaged, it can disrupt the signal sent to your muscles or other body functions which eventually leads to muscle paralysis or weakness in the affected area. This condition is known as monoplegia.
Causes of Monoplegia
This condition can be caused by cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects the movement and coordination of muscles which, in turn, can damage sight, hearing, and sensation. Did you know that cerebral palsy is one of the disabilities which can affect at least 1,000 children worldwide?
It can also be caused by a bad injury or trauma to the brain, upper or lower limb, and spinal cord. Monoplegia can also be caused by several other factors, such as nerve inflammation or (neuritis), a stroke, tumors affecting the brain or the spinal cord, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathy, and even conditions like a herniated disc or bone spurs.
Symptoms of Monoplegia
The signs of monoplegia of the upper limb as well as any other affected body part can arise suddenly. In some cases like progressive cerebral palsy or motor neuron disease these symptoms progress gradually . This illness can lead to the inability to move one of your legs or your arm, besides which you may also experience the following symptoms in the affected limb:
· Muscle stiffness or spasms
· Loss of muscle tone
· Decreased feeling
· Muscle floppiness
· Sensations or feelings of numbness
· Curling of the fingers or toes in the affected limb
What is Spastic Monoplegia?
Spastic monoplegia is an illness that can cause damage in the brain before birth, during delivery, and even within the first few years of a child’s life. It prevents normal development of motor functions and makes small tasks difficult, like picking up items or even walking. It is prudent to remember that this condition is incurable and the child affected by it will not recover.
Most of the cases of spastic monoplegia occur due to development defects during pregnancy. However, a medical error can also result in it. If the baby does not get sufficient oxygen during and right after birth, it can lead to spastic monoplegia. The condition can also occur if during labor the baby remains too long in the birth canal, the attending obstetrician incorrectly uses vacuum or forceps extraction to get the baby out, or where the umbilical cord comes out of the body before the baby.
Is Monoplegia Curable?
There is no current cure for monoplegia, instead, the treatment aims at improving the quality of life for the individual and includes a variety of options like:
· Physical exercises – Physiotherapy can be helpful to build and maintain strength, flexibility, and vigor in the affected limb. Physical exercises like stretching, massage, or even other techniques can stimulate muscles and help the patient get some relief.
· Occupation therapy – This form of therapy teaches the individual to perform daily household tasks like bathing, dressing, washing, or even cooking at ease.
· Devices to assist – Devices or equipment like walkers, wheelchairs, voice-activated devices, and specialized grips and handles can make these individuals’ daily lives easier.
· Medications – With monoplegia, patients are put on pain medications or even muscle relaxants to help alleviate the pain of muscle stiffness and even spasms.
· Surgery – Spastic monoplegia can sometimes be quite painful and if it is caused by a tumor or a nerve compression then surgery may be required. Surgery is used as a last resort in this type of disorder and is only done if the patient is really bad or is worsening.
Physiotherapy Treatments for Monoplegia
Whether you are dealing with monoplegia of upper limb or lower limb, most patients are unable to gain their full strength and hence require physiotherapy. This physical therapy includes a set of exercises which when practiced daily can help individuals cope with small day-to-day tasks. Besides this, there is computer-assisted technology which makes exercises more fun and enjoyable. Patients go through a rehabilitation process and the system collects the information and generates a report based on its analysis.
Each individual is different and depending on the results the exercises are either increased or reduced or changed entirely. Individual responses are studied and physiotherapy doctors detect if the patient is improving or worsening and will accordingly change the dosage.
The Final Words
Monoplegia of the lower limb or any other single limb happens when the nervous system is disrupted in the affected area due to damage and can suddenly appear after a while. Although this illness can improve over time, the best bet is to keep the patient comfortable and improve the quality of life. Dealing with monoplegia can be very strenuous on the family members and the person as well. Doctors, most of the times, advise that the individual be admitted, which makes going for physical therapy, exercises, and any other treatments much easier to give. Patients with this disease are offered to join support groups and are given a variety of treatment options to help improve the disease. These treatments majorly focus on alleviating symptoms and reducing the pain.