Hemiplegia refers to a state in which there is a complete or near-complete loss of movement on one entire side of the body. Hemiplegia is caused by damage to the brain in regions that control body movements, and it is similar but more severe than hemiparesis. The side of the body that is paralyzed is opposite to the damaged side of the brain. Hemiplegia may be present at birth or may develop later in life from stroke or damage to the brain from injury, infection, or tumors.
The major symptoms of hemiplegia include stiffness, weakness, or lack of control on either the left or right side of the body. Other early symptoms include the use of only one hand, keeping one hand in a fist, difficulty walking and balancing, and difficulty performing actions requiring fine motor skills, such as using scissors or writing. In general, affected children may experience delayed milestones compared to their peers and are more likely to develop scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, as they grow. Once present, hemiplegia does not progress, but limitations may become more obvious with age. Damage to the brain may lead to related disorders in affected individuals. These include learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, difficulty with sight and speech, psychiatric illnesses, epilepsy, and behavioral problems.
While there is currently no cure for hemiplegia, there are treatments available to help reduce symptoms. Physical therapy can help prevent a decrease in muscle mass (atrophy). Braces and other devices may be used to increase mobility. Medications can be used to decrease seizures and help with psychiatric or behavioral issues. Surgery may be required if the condition affects other body functions. If you or your child has been diagnosed with a hemiplegia, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options.