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Causes and effects of spinal cord injuries

Pain and incapacity can severely diminish the quality of life. An injury to the spinal cord through physical trauma or disease may devastate a victim and create hardships for concerned family members. The condition may impose tremendous financial pressure on Cook County families struggling with high doctor, hospital and at-home medical expenses as well as the loss of a wage earner's income.

A spinal cord injury can be the result of direct or indirect damage. Herniated disks and injuries to surrounding ligaments or bones in the spinal column can harm the spinal cord. The injury interferes with or cuts off the information flow between the body and brain.

Nerve damage can restrict movement, dull reflexes and cause sensory deprivation. When the injury is severe, a victim loses all feeling below the point of injury. Paralysis and sensory inabilities are frequently more common the closer a spinal cord injury is to the brain.

Injuries to the spinal cord occur in numerous ways, although car accidents are responsible for many of them. Crash victims make up over 40 percent of new spinal cord injury patients annually. The use of alcohol has been linked to one in four injuries with falls, particularly among older people, accounting for an equal amount.

Athletic and recreational activities contribute to 8 percent of yearly spinal cord accidents. Violence is involved of 15 percent of injuries. Diseases like osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, cancer, arthritis and spinal cord inflammation affect the spinal cord.

The injured person may feel sharp pain and lack the ability to move. Sensation loss may inhibit elimination functions and sexual activity. Depending upon the injury, the effects may be short-term or last a lifetime.

Many spinal cord injuries happen as the result of someone else's negligence or intentional actions. Victims may file claims against at-fault parties for damages that cover present and future physical, mental and financial suffering.

Source: Shepherd Center, "Spinal Cord Injury: Basic Facts" Oct. 01, 2014

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