Types of physical disabilities
Disabilities vary from behavioural, mental, intellectual, cognitive and physical. Physical disabilities, also known as mobility disabilities, refer to any condition that affects an individual’s body movement and control.
Amputations and loss of limbs
Losing a limb through accident or disease can be a frightening and challenging experience for amputees and their families.
Cerebral palsy is a physical disability resulting from injury to the developing brain during pregnancy, birth, or shortly after birth. But what causes this damage to the brain? Well, illnesses during pregnancy, premature birth, and meningitis in young children are the leading causes of cerebral palsy. When damage to the brain occurs, it causes motor function impairment, leading to movement and coordination problems. However, an individual with cerebral palsy may have other linked disabilities, including behavioural, intellectual, speech, and visual disabilities. Individuals with cerebral palsy require different adaptive equipment and external support to carry out daily activities. The good news is that people with cerebral palsy can achieve greater control over movement if provided with an environment to learn and practice motor skills.
Stroke is a physical disability resulting from bleeding in the brain or interruption of the central nervous system’s blood supply. An individual with stroke experiences a sudden impairment on one side of the body, making it difficult to carry out daily activities, including movements. People who suffer from a stroke can regain their independence after treatment, but can continue to experience paralysis and weaknesses on the body’s affected side. A walking crutch or wheelchair may be required to enable an individual who has had a stroke, to help move from one place to another. Ultimately, it is worth noting that individuals with a stroke can indulge in daily activities that do not require much movement, as they can function with one side of their body.
Spina bifida is a type of physical disability, which occurs during pregnancy where there is incomplete closure of the bony encasement of the spinal cord, leaving the spinal nerves exposed. Spina bifida is known to cause paralysis of the lower part of the body, but this depends on the lesion’s extent and level. A person with spina bifida can also experience weakness, sensory loss, or both. Additionally, many individuals with spina bifida tend to lose control over their bowel and bladder. This type of disability requires a wheelchair or a pair of crutches to enable movements. Unfortunately, this disability has no known cause and has no cure; hence, it is a life-long disability.
There are more than 100 different arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions that affect the muscles, bones and joints. Management techniques can include medical treatment and medication, physiotherapy, exercise and self-management techniques.
Arthritis – juvenile
Juvenile arthritis refers to the types of arthritis that affect children. Other names for juvenile arthritis include juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile chronic arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and Still’s disease. More girls than boys develop juvenile arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which inflammation (pain, heat and swelling) affects the joints, particularly the hands, feet and knees and sometimes other organs of the body. Joint stiffness is common, especially in the morning. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but there are effective ways to manage it.
Reactive arthritis can follow a bacterial infection. The joints of the knees and ankles are most commonly affected. The condition generally resolves by itself over a few months. Unlike other forms of arthritis, reactive arthritis does not destroy the affected joint. Reactive arthritis was formerly known as Reiter’s syndrome.
A birth defect is an abnormality that may be detected during pregnancy, at birth or in early childhood. The abnormality may affect the function or structure of a body part or alter the baby’s metabolism. Some birth defects, such as a particular body part being absent or improperly formed, can require ongoing treatment or therapy.
Spinal cord injury
Spinal cord injuries result from a lack of sufficient blood and oxygen supply to the spinal cord. It can also arise from applying excess pressure to the spinal cord. Accidents and falls are the major causes of spinal cord injury. Other factors such as degenerative spinal conditions, cancer, and arthritis can also cause this disability. The injuries lead to partial or total impairment of the motor and sensory functions in the limbs or the body. For this reason, an individual with a spinal cord injury disability will experience a loss of feeling or mobility. Spinal cord injury leads to either tetraplegia or paraplegia. Tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, is paralysis affecting most body parts. Its impact can extend to the stomach, both arms, legs, and some stomach muscles. Paraplegia, on the other hand, causes a loss of bladder and bowel control and movement.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition where an individual tends to have recurring, unprovoked seizures. These seizures tend to cause a change in behaviour, sensations or lead to loss of consciousness. It is worth noting that the severity and nature of the episodes vary from one individual to another; hence, they are not comparable. There are no specific causes of this type of disability. However, brain infection, brain injury, genetics, stroke, and structural abnormalities of the brain can cause epilepsy. Epilepsy is not a lifelong disability to some individuals, and it can be controlled using medications. Surgery can also correct the disability. Medics advise individuals with epilepsy to avoid the known triggers and pay attention to lifestyle issues likely to trigger seizures.
Muscular dystrophy occurs when the muscles responsible for controlling movement become weak. This type of physical disability has different variations, and each has a different cause. The symptoms of the disability tend to vary depending on the variation of the disability. Still, they all lead to heart problems, difficulties in swallowing and breathing, and restricted walking and joint motion. The most common type of muscular dystrophy is Duchene, a progressive disability. It mainly occurs in boys and can get worse with time. The disability has no cure. When a child with this disability reaches adolescence, they must use a wheelchair, as their muscles are already too weak to control movement. Other types of muscular dystrophy can appear in childhood, while others only become apparent later in life.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a life-threatening genetic disorder. It severely affects the lungs and digestive system. There is currently no cure. However, with improved medication and treatment to manage symptoms, life expectancy has been extended considerably.
Physical disability and sexuality
Sexuality is a key part of human nature. Expressing sexuality in satisfying ways is important for everyone, including people with physical disability. Some people with physical disability may need additional support, education or services to enjoy healthy sexuality and relationships.
Neural tube defects
Neural tube defects (NTDs) include spina bifida, anencephaly and encephalocele. Folate deficiency and some epilepsy medications are risk factors for these conditions. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects. Tests in pregnancy such as ultrasound can diagnose these birth defects.
Maintaining a healthy weight
A person with a disability can avoid becoming overweight or obese with various strategies. People with disabilities may find it hard to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise is difficult for people with limited mobility, but help is available to manage your weight.