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What are the complications of spinal cord injuries?

After suffering a spinal cord injury, your first priority is survival, as these injuries are often fatal. Your next focus will likely be on regaining as much mobility as possible.

But while it might not be a primary concern, the complications spinal injury patients suffer cannot be ignored. Below are some of the problems that accident victims might experience.

-- Loss of bladder and bowel control. No one likes to consider the possibility of having to wear adult diapers or be catheterized, but for some patients, this will be part of the new normal.

-- Muscle tone problems. Spinal cord injuries can bring about two kinds of issues — flaccidity, where the muscles are limp and lack tone, and spasticity, where they contract or move uncontrollably.

-- Circulatory problems. Orthostatic hypotension, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary emboli, swelling of the feet and legs and autonomic hyperreflexia can all present serious and even deadly problems.

-- Lack of sensation in the skin. While the skin above the injury level should retain its sensation, anything below the level of your spinal injury may be partially or totally numb. This means you are unaware of extreme temperature changes and prolonged pressure.

-- Sexual difficulties. Everything from impotence to infertility can be attributed to spinal cord injuries. These problems can interfere in intimate relationships.

-- Respiratory difficulties. Breathing and coughing can be problematic when chest and abdominal muscles are compromised. Pneumonia is a constant threat to those with injuries to their cervical and thoracic spines.

-- Changes in wellness and fitness. Spinal cord injury patients can gain or lose weight inappropriately. Having limited mobility and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to obesity and other problems.

If you were injured in an accident for which another person or company is responsible, it's important that your personal injury attorney in Illinois include the risk and cost of potential complications into the amount being sought in a settlement or judgment.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Spinal Cord Injuries," accessed April 29, 2016

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