What Is Diplegia?
Diplegia is a pathological condition, which in medical terms is referred to as symmetrical paralysis, characterized by paralysis of the arms or legs. Diplegia can affect an individual of any age but mostly seems to affect children. The disease course of Diplegia is highly unpredictable such that it may be difficult for even the best of physicians to tell whether the disease may get better or worse with time.
Diplegia is basically a symptom of a much serious medical condition and is not an illness itself. In most of the cases Diplegia affects the arms and legs but may also affect both sides of the face. The severity of the paralysis is variable, for some individuals it may be severe and for some it may be mild in nature. Citing an example, an individual may have complete paralysis of one arm but may have some mobility in the other arm whereas another individual may have complete paralysis of the arms.
Another striking difference that Diplegia has with other forms of paralysis is that Diplegia tends to change in character with time while this does not happen in other forms of paralysis such that individuals with this condition tend to have significant nervous system abnormalities but may still maintain some sensation and functioning of the area affected by Diplegia.
What Causes Diplegia?
It is not possible to diagnose the cause of Diplegia just by symptoms alone. However, judging the onset of symptoms and the location of Diplegia may be useful for a physician to identify the cause of Diplegia. Some of the common causes of Diplegia are:
Vascular Disorders: Such disorders restrict blood flow to the affected area resulting in Diplegia. Facial diplegia is the best example of a Diplegia caused by vascular disorders such as a stroke.
Infectious and Toxic Agents: Certain infectious and toxic agents tend to damage the nerves and muscles resulting in development of Diplegia. The affects of Diplegia caused due to infectious and toxic agents are temporary and can be reversed if appropriate treatment is provided to the patient.
Injury to the Brain or Spinal Cord: Spinal cord and brain injuries normally do not paralyze an area but instead abnormality occurs in the ability of the brain and spinal cord to send and receive signals from these areas causing Diplegia. The affects of Diplegia due to brain and spinal cord injuries normally are permanent and cannot be reversed.
Cerebral Palsy: This is a condition found in children and is believed to be the most common cause of Diplegia in children. Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder found in children caused due to abnormalities in the brain that may have begun much before the child is born. This movement disorder also tends to cause Diplegia in children.
What Are The Symptoms Of Diplegia?
The obvious presenting feature of Diplegia is the complete or partial loss of motion and function in the symmetrical areas of the body such as the arms, legs, or the face.
Some of the other symptoms that may be seen in individuals with Diplegia are:
- Alterations in neurological functioning
- Limited to no movements in the affected areas
- Problems with bowel and bladder control
- Severe chronic pain
- Loss of sensation in the affected areas
How Is Diplegia Treated?
The treatment of Diplegia basically depends on the cause of it. Thus it is imperative for the physician to identify the cause of the individual’s Diplegia and then formulate a treatment plan according to it. The treating physician may order series of scans, blood studies, and a battery of other investigational studies to come up with a cause of Diplegia.
In case if an infection is the cause of Diplegia then antibiotics will be recommended to treat the infection and help treat Diplegia. In case of any vascular disorders causing Diplegia, surgery will be recommended to address the issue and treat the Diplegia caused by it.
Surgery will also be recommended in cases of Diplegia caused by injury to the brain or spinal cord even though the changes caused by the injury may be permanent.
Additionally physical and occupational therapy will be of great help to be able to mobilize the area affected by Diplegia.
What Is The Overall Prognosis Of Diplegia?
As stated above, Diplegia is perhaps one of the most unpredictable variant of paralysis. Thus it is difficult to predict a prognosis. In some cases, an individual with severe form of Diplegia may improve significantly with time while in other cases there may not be great change in the symptoms with time.
The overall prognosis virtually depends on the cause of the Diplegia. If brain or spinal cord abnormalities have caused Diplegia then the changes are more or less permanent despite adequate treatment and the prognosis for recovery is not that good.
For infectious and toxic form of Diplegia, the prognosis is very good with adequate treatment and therapy. Thus it is imperative for an individual to get immediate medical attention to identify the cause and start treatment and rehabilitation to have the best chance of recovering from Diplegia.