By medical definition, paresis is a partial paralysis of the motor function of an area of the body resulting in weakness of a body territory. It can be gradual or sudden and can in some cases constitute an emergency. Discover paresis, its causes, the affected areas and the treatment.
What is paresis?
The paresis is a loss of motricity linked to a motor deficit. “Paresis is partial paralysissays Professor Christine Tranchant, neurologist at the Strasbourg University Hospital. Paresis is not a sensory disorder: it refers to the loss of motor skills of a part of the body, resulting in weakness, a decrease in physical strength.”
The paresis is sudden or progressive, transient or permanent. “When it occurs suddenly, paresis is a sign of seriousness. It can reveal a CVA especially if it concerns a hemibody, but also a single limb or a hemiface. Faced with these brutal symptoms, an emergency consultation is essential,” continues Professor Tranchant.
What parts of the body?
The paresis is a very general term that can relate to all parts of the body in which there are muscles. Paresis can therefore affect the lower or upper limbs, the face, the hemiface, the oculomotor muscles, the swallowing muscles, the phonation muscles, the sphincter muscles, etc.
The causes of paresis
The cause of the paresis differs depending on whether it happens suddenly or gradually. Sudden paresis often occurs following a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), or following a cerebral or medullary (spinal cord) trauma.
When partial paralysis is progressive, the causes are varied:
- Polyneuropathies (Guillain-Barré syndrome for example);
- Charcot’s disease or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis;
- Genetics (hereditary spastic paralysis);
- Compression of the nerves, spinal cord or brain (by a herniated disc, a hematoma, a tumour, for example);
- Inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system (multiple sclerosis), etc.
Muscular weakness: which examination?
“To make the diagnosis of paresis, but above all to find its origin, we must know if it is central or peripheral and of gradual or sudden appearance. During the examination, we seek to know if sensory disorders are associated and if the reflexes are present or abolished.says Dr. Tranchant. If the involvement is central, an MRI of the brain and spinal cord is generally prescribed. If it is peripheral, an electromyogram is often necessary.”
Paresis: what are the symptoms?
The paresis causes a muscular weakness. The patient may have difficulty performing certain movements. “Difficulty walking may appear, with a decrease in walking distance or the sensation of the leg dragging when the lower limb is affected”, says Professor Christine Tranchant. In the upper limbs, the subject may have difficulty gripping or difficulty lifting the arms, for example”.
Depending on the seat of the paresis, a wide variety of symptoms appear:
- Loss of strength in limbs or face;
- Swallowing disorders (dysphagia);
- Double vision (oculomotor nerve damage);
- Speech disorders (dysarthria);
- Urinary disorders (sphincters), etc.
When to consult?
“We consult systematically, even if the paresis is regressive in order to avoid recurrence. If the paresis is progressive, medical advice is essential. If the paresis is brutal, it is a medical emergency: the patient must consult immediately”, specifies the specialist.
Who to consult?
In case of progressive paresis, you should consult your doctor. Depending on his diagnosis, the latter directs the patient to a neurologist.
If the partial loss of motor skills is sudden, you must go to the emergency room or contact the SAMU to verify that it is not a stroke.
Treatment: how to treat paresis?
The treatment of paresis depends on its cause. In the event of a stroke, depending on the location and time to onset, drug treatment is administered intravenously to dissolve the clot (thrombolysis). If the paresis is progressive, medical or surgical treatment will depend on the cause. “In any case, physiotherapy is always indicated in case of partial paralysis. It reduces the loss of muscle mass and minimizes functional loss”, says Professor Christine Tranchant.