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Symptoms and complications of spinal cord injuries

A spinal cord injury occurs when the spinal cord sustains damage, either by a traumatic event or disease. Injuries to the spinal cord can have various symptoms. The exact symptoms can depend on the location and severity of each spinal cord injury.

Most symptoms occur at the location of the injury and below. Symptoms range from mild to life-threatening. So, what are the consequences and complications of different spinal cord injuries? Read below to learn more. 

Common signs and symptoms

Any type of spinal cord injury commonly results in one or more of these symptoms:

  • Loss of ability to feel cold, heat or touch
  • Loss of control over the bladder or bowels
  • Loss of movement
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain or stinging sensation
  • Impairment in sexual function, infertility or sexual sensitivity
  • Exaggerated muscle spasms 

These symptoms may appear right away or take a long time to show up. 

Severe signs and symptoms

More serious symptoms include:

  • Paralysis
  • Weakness in body parts
  • Extreme pressure or pain in the back, neck or head
  • Difficulty balancing or walking
  • Tingling, numbness or loss of sensation in the hands or feet
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Twisted back or neck

Even severe symptoms such as paralysis may appear gradually as swelling or bleeding increases around the spinal cord. 

Living with a spinal cord injury

A spinal cord injury can significantly impair the senses and motor functions. According to WebMD, if you sustain a spinal cord injury, you may experience paralysis and need a wheelchair. You may need to enter rehabilitation to learn how to manage your bladder and prevent pressure sores. This may result in anger and sadness. As you learn to adapt to life with a spinal cord injury, it is possible to experience depression. 

It is important to seek medical attention if you sustain significant trauma to your head or neck to determine whether you have a spinal cord injury. 

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