Paresis is a condition in which muscle movement is weakened. Unlike paralysis, individuals with paresis still have some control over the affected muscles.
Paresis occurs due to nerve damage, which can be caused by a variety of factors or conditions.
Keep reading as we dive deeper into what paresis is, what causes it, and how it may be treated.
Paresis refers to a condition in which muscle movement has become weakened or impaired. You may also sometimes see it referred to as “mild paralysis” or “partial paralysis.”
Although paresis affects your muscles, it usually occurs due to nerve damage.
A vast network of nerves controls the movement of the muscles in our bodies. If a part of this network is damaged, muscles in the affected area may not work properly.
There are several factors that can cause paresis, and there are many different types of paresis. Paresis is often categorized by the area of the body that’s impacted.
Paresis is characterized by muscle weakness. A person with paresis can still move the affected muscle or muscles. However, these movements are weaker than normal.
Paresis is different from paralysis. An individual who has paralysis isn’t able to move a specific muscle or muscle group at all.
You may also see paresis used as a suffix to distinguish what part of the body is affected. For example, a person with monoparesis has muscle weakness affecting one limb.
The corresponding suffix for paralysis is “-plegia.” Using the same example, a person with monoplegia has paralysis that affects one limb.
There are many different factors that can cause nerve damage that results in paresis.
Several examples of causes include:
- head injury
- spinal cord injury
- pressure on the spinal cord or nerves due to things like inflammation, bone spurs, or a tumor
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
- cerebral palsy
- certain infections, such as Epstein-Barr virus and syphilis
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Just as there are many potential causes of paresis, there are also many different types of paresis.
Below are several examples of different types of paresis:
- Monoparesis. Monoparesis muscle weakness that affects one limb, such as a leg or an arm.
- Paraparesis. Paraparesis is muscle weakness that affects both legs.
- Hemiparesis. Hemiparesis is muscle weakness that affects one side of your body, such as the left arm and left leg.
- Quadriparesis. Quadriparesis is muscle weakness that affects all four limbs.
- Bell’s palsy. Bell’s palsy is a condition that leads to temporary weakness in your facial muscles, which can cause facial drooping and pain.
- Vocal cord paresis. Vocal cord paresis affects the movement of your vocal cords. The condition often leads to a soft voice or hoarseness, as well as feelings of breathlessness when speaking.
- Gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is a condition where the emptying of the stomach is impaired due to muscle weakness. It’s associated with symptoms like nausea, vomiting, bloating, and feeling full quickly.
- Todd’s paresis. Todd’s paresis is a type of paresis that occurs following a seizure. It’s often associated with paresis in one limb (monoparesis) or on one side of the body (hemiparesis).
- Neurosyphilis. Neurosyphilis occurs when a syphilis infection attacks the nervous system. It can cause paresis as well as headaches, changes in behavior, and dementia.
- Spastic paresis. Spastic paresis is a condition that causes muscle overactivity and spasticity. It’s due to nerve damage that often results from conditions like stroke, MS, and cerebral palsy. This can lead to pain as well as difficulty with activities like walking or getting dressed.
Muscle weakness is the main symptom of paresis.
Other common symptoms can include:
- muscle stiffness
- a tingling or “pins and needles” feeling
- decreased sensation in the affected area
Some types of paresis may have slightly different or additional symptoms.
Symptoms of paresis can come on suddenly, as in the case of a head or spinal cord injury. They may come on gradually in other instances, such as with a condition like MS.
Depending on the cause, symptoms may be temporary or permanent. They may also progressively get worse, leading to paralysis, as with ALS.
Treatment for paresis depends on what’s causing it. It focuses on addressing any underlying conditions and improving quality of life.
Examples of possible treatment options include:
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy uses techniques such as exercise and massage to aid in promoting mobility, improving flexibility and range of motion, and stimulating your nerves and muscles.
- Occupational therapy. Occupational therapy can teach you strategies for carrying out your day-to-day activities more easily while you’re experiencing paresis.
- Assistive devices. Assistive devices are items that can help with your mobility and daily activities. Examples include:
- grab bars
- specialized handles and grips
- voice-activated technology
- Medications. In some cases, medications may help treat a condition that’s causing paresis. Examples include:
- antimicrobial medications for infections
- corticosteroids to reduce inflammation that’s putting pressure on a nerve
Paresis involves the weakening of a muscle or group of muscles. It may also be referred to as partial or mild paralysis. Unlike paralysis, people with paresis can still move their muscles. These movements are just weaker than normal.
Paresis occurs when nerves are damaged. When this happens, muscles that are served by the affected nerve may not function properly.
There are a variety of different causes of paresis, including injury, stroke, spinal cord inflammation, and conditions like MS.
There’s currently no cure for paresis. Some types of paresis are temporary and will go away over time, while others may be permanent. Sometimes, however, treatments that focus on the underlying cause can help it improve or completely resolve.
Your healthcare provider can work with you to create the right treatment method based on your needs. Proper treatment can help you manage your condition, and improve your mobility and quality of life.