Why Spinal Cord Injury and Bladder Function are Closely Linked
- On November 6, 2018
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- incontinence causes
Spinal cord injuries are common after a traumatic incident such as a car accident or an extreme fall. Car accidents are actually the most common cause of spinal cord issues, leading to 47% of all spinal cord injury cases.
The explanation to why spinal cord injury causes incontinence isn’t as complicated as we might think. Damage to the spinal cord happens when parts of bone or ligaments bruise the spinal cord tissue. This can destroy or damage nerve cells which help the brain communicate to the bladder. Interestingly, there is an area between the brain and spinal cord called the brainstem. This features a “voiding” centre, which works through sending signals down the spinal cord to the sphincter. The voiding centre therefore tells the sphincter to relax when the bladder contracts. It also works to prevent you from urinating when it is inappropriate.
When bladder control is affected by a spinal cord injury, this is known as a “neurogenic bladder”. Symptoms of urinary problems caused by a spinal cord injury include large amounts of leaking without any urge. This condition is also known as overflow incontinence.
Incontinence can cause chronic incontinence. Read our tips on enjoying life with chronic urinary incontinence.
In addition to a spinal cord injury, a neurogenic bladder can also be caused by:
Detecting a Spinal Cord Injury
Leaving a spinal cord injury untreated can cause serious medical issues and dramatically worsen the problem. In addition to incontinence symptoms, there are other health issues you should pay attention to.
Symptoms to Look out for:
- Difficulty breathing
- Problems walking
- Muscle spasms
- Lack of ability to feel heat and cold
- Intense stinging sensation
Recommended Products for Urinary Incontinence
The Next Step: Managing your Incontinence
Managing incontinence after a spinal cord injury consists of using a drainage device. Clean technique intermittent catheterization involves inserting a tube through your urethra and into your bladder several times in a day to empty the bladder. There is also the option of a continuous catheter, which allows you to continuously empty the bladder.
You should not be scared of talking to specialists about your incontinence, as they hear about this on a regular basis. Doctors can help you understand your injury and its impact on your bladder. They sometimes prescribe medications to improve bladder functions and reduce your leakages. If possible, urologists can also perform bladder reconstructive surgery that may improve your bladder symptoms.