Understanding Other Health Issues

Those who suffer a spinal cord injury are also at risk for other secondary health issues, some more severe than others. Here is a list of related health issues to watch out for. 

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Autonomic Dysreflexia

Occurring normally in patients with a T6 and higher injury who suffer from an overactive autonomic nervous system, Autonomic Dysreflexia can cause a rise in blood pressure. It derives from discomfort or pain below the injury and must be treated immediately. There are several recognizable symptoms. Consult a doctor to learn if you are at risk. If at risk, it is highly recommended to carry a card containing crucial information on this potential condition, so emergency medical professionals know all of the facts in the event an episode occurs. 

Bladder and Urinary Tract Infections

Post injury, there are two types of bladder situations that can arise. Spastic bladder is just as it sounds, where the bladder, possibly full, is spastically messaged to empty without prompt from the patient. The other bladder situation is at the other end of the spectrum. A flaccid bladder is when the reflexes to empty are non-responsive or somewhat lagging.

 

A urinary tract infection is brought on when the bladder is not fully emptied, or in some cases, from possible catheter bacteria. 

Blood Clots

Prolonged periods of extremity inactivity can put patients at risk for blood clots. There are several ways to treat blood clotting, including the use of compression devices, blood thinning medication and inserted filters. A daily examination of all extremities is highly recommended.  

Bowel Management

Depending on whether a spinal cord injury is above or below T12, a spastic or flaccid bowel may occur. To avoid bowel issues as much as possible, it is highly recommended to get on a bowel schedule or program.

 

To correct the problem, several stimulators exist. In more serious cases, a surgical procedure can be considered. 

Low blood pressure

Happening mostly in quadriplegia patients, low blood pressure, or hypotension, can occur with a position shift from lying down to upright. Several support mechanisms can be employed to avoid hypotension, including leg wraps, elastic stockings or an elastic belt around the abdomen.

Pain and Discomfort

A certain level of pain is a normal part of the body’s healing process. Chronic or nerve pain may develop and should be treated accordingly by a medical professional. Depending on the level of pain, a wide array of prescribed drugs can be considered. 

Pneumonia

Should the patient be unable to properly inhale, exhale or cough, secretions can build up in the lungs, causing pneumonia. Those particularly at risk are spinal cord injury patients that were injured while engaging in water sports. Routinely removing lung secretions is the best way to avoid a bout of pneumonia. 

Pressure Sores

Pressure sores develop when the skin is under a certain amount of pressure in non-fatty areas of the body. The best way to avoid this situation is to change positions regularly, keep the skin dry and to wear comfortable clothing. There’s no such thing as a non-serious skin sore. All skin issues should be monitored very closely.  

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)