Complications of paralysis from spinal cord injury

A traumatic injury to the spinal cord can cause damage resulting in paralysis. The Cleveland Clinic defines paralysis as a loss of control over one or more muscles in a specific area of the body. Depending on the extent of the injury, the paralysis may be complete and permanent.

There are several different types of paralysis depending on the parts of the body affected. The most common types of paralysis to result from spinal trauma are paraplegia and quadriplegia. Paraplegia affects the lower body while quadriplegia involves both legs and both arms.

Paralysis not only affects the ability of the muscles to move. The damage to the nerves that disrupts signals from the brain also affects other areas of the body. The Mayo Clinic describes some of the complications that can result.

Fitness and wellness

As a result of a spinal cord injury, a patient may become less physically active. This may cause the patient to gain weight, which puts one at risk for developing other health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Bowel and bladder control

Lack of neural input from the brain can affect the function of the bowels and bladder. Patients learn techniques to compensate for the loss of control. Sometimes it is necessary for patients to have a colostomy or use catheters to manage the output.

Sexual health

A spinal cord injury can affect sexual function in both women and men. Impotence and infertility can result.

Muscle tone

Muscle tone is the amount of tension in the muscular tissue when at rest. Paralysis from a spinal cord injury can cause the muscles to lose tone and become limp and soft. Muscles may also tighten uncontrollably in a spasm.