The diaphragm, the main muscle in breath control in the body, is a large, dome-shaped sheet of muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdomen. When a person breathes in, the diaphragm contracts and flattens, creating a vacuum and sucking air into the lungs. During exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes and releases air. The diaphragm also helps create pressure in the abdomen, which allows the body to expel feces, vomit, and urine. Like other muscles in the body, the diaphragm can become paralyzed.
Both bilateral and unilateral diaphragm paralysis reduce lung capacity. Bilateral diaphragm paralysis affects both sides of the muscle, leading to severe lung capacity reduction; this type is most likely to cause noticeable symptoms. Unilateral diaphragm paralysis occurs on one side only. It often has no symptoms, unless the individual has a pre-existing heart or lung disorder.
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