What Does it Mean to be a Quadriplegic?

August 10, 2015 | 11:36 am | By Pants Up Easy

Not all paralysis occurs to the same degree. A person can be either partially or completely paralyzed, and those who have paralysis of both their arms and legs are considered quadriplegic. Quadriplegia may be caused by a spinal cord injury, or possibly by a condition such as cerebral palsy or stroke.

When a person suffers a spinal cord injury, the severity of their paralysis depends on which part of the spinal cord was injured and how damaging the injury was. The spinal cord and brain work together in order to send communication throughout your body, so when the spinal cord becomes injured it impairs this communication. This may result in a disturbance in sensation and movement. When the area of the spinal cord near the neck becomes injured, this typically results in quadriplegia, although this is dependent on the severity of the injury.

A spinal cord injury that is quite severe may possibly interfere with not only movement, but also with the ability to breath. Some quadriplegics will need a ventilator in order to breath properly, while others may be able to learn to control their breathing over time. A complete quadriplegic will not have the ability to move any part of their body below their neck. In some cases, a quadriplegic may have the ability to move their arms and shoulders while having no control over their hands. A particular spinal cord injury may be classified from a C-1 to a C8 depending on location and severity, and this is what will determine how much the patient is able to function.

There are many complications that may be caused by quadriplegia. For one, pressure sores are common because of the constant pressure from the weight of the body from sitting at all times. Since quadriplegics typically cannot shift themselves, a caregiver must do this often in order to avoid these sores. Pressure sores can lead to extreme complications, so it’s important to avoid them at all costs.

Another common issue that quadriplegics may have is blood clotting. Blood circulation slows down from being immobile, which can cause clots to develop. This can be incredibly dangerous, so the patient may be prescribed blood thinners to improve circulation. Respiratory problems are also common because the spinal cord injury may have interfered with the nerve signals to your chest and diaphragm. In the case of an entirely paralyzed diaphragm, the patient be intubated and placed on a ventilator.

Loss of bladder and bowl control is yet another common issue for those with quadriplegia. How severe the issue is will be determined by the spinal cord injury. This issue can lead to urinary tract infections or constipation if not properly managed. Also, injuries are common to the extremities because of the loss of feeling. Patients may not realize when they become burned or cut as they will not feel the pain associated with the injury.

As you can see, much depends on the severity of the spinal cord injury when it comes to symptoms and complications. While some quadriplegics may have a complete loss of function from the neck down, others may have some control over their arms and neck. It’s important for quadriplegics to have proper care in order to live their lives to the fullest and to avoid unnecessary complications that may lead to further injury and major issues down the line.

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