Our body functions as one large connected system that works together to perform basic tasks, such as emptying the bladder. However, when someone suffers a spinal cord injury, the system may no longer function properly, leading to incontinence. But patients and loved ones don’t have to fight their symptoms on their own. There are a variety of care tips to simplify caring for incontinence and spinal cord injuries.
How Are Spinal Cord Injuries & Incontinence Connected?
80% of people with spinal cord injuries due to trauma, vehicle accidents, infections, and other conditions experience some degree of neurogenic bladder dysfunction. The bladder can become dysfunctional due to an injury or disease of the central nervous system, muscles, or peripheral nerves responsible for bladder control.
The type and severity of incontinence that a patient suffers from depends on exactly where the spinal cord injury is located. This is because the spinal cord acts as a central server with cells that receive and send messages to the rest of the body to move the arms, get up, empty the bladder, and more. Once it’s damaged, the ability to send and receive signals becomes impaired.
With complete spinal cord damage, the spinal cord has been completely cut, and no signals can travel below where the injury is located. Generally, all feeling and ability to move below this point is gone. But if the damage is incomplete, there may only be a slight loss of the ability to control muscle movement, and some signals may still be transferred.
Usually, the higher up the damage occurs, the more severe the injury is.
- Injuries above vertebrae TH12/L1: May lead to detrusor sphincter dyssynergia, or the inability to empty the bladder or control bladder impulses.
- Injuries below TH12/L1: Causes lost muscle tone of the bladder and sphincter. The ability to fully empty the bladder, hold urine, or prevent leaks may be impaired.
- Lower spinal cord injuries: May cause the inability to fully empty the bladder.
Caring For Spinal Cord Injuries & Incontinence
If a loved one or patient has spinal cord injury symptoms that include incontinence issues, they might be a bit withdrawn or depressed, as incontinence is linked to anxiety, depression, and the loss of independence.
But they don’t have to stress about having accidents. With the proper care, you can help your loved one confidently participate in their favorite activities while remaining comfortable and sanitary.
1. Have the Right Incontinence Supplies
Where the spinal injury occurred impacts bladder function and what supplies are necessary to prevent leaks and odors.
Indwelling catheters: Remain in the body for prolonged periods of time to empty the bladder when needed. They are typically inserted by a physician and empty urine into a drainage bag. They are not removed after each use like intermittent catheters.
Intermittent catheters: Intermittent catheters are short-term catheters used to empty your bladder periodically throughout the day. They are usually inserted about 4 to 6 times a day when the bladder needs to be emptied and are disposed of after use. They direct urine directly into the toilet.
Pull-ups: They are a variety of pull-ups for patients to wear based on their individual needs. They are discreet with the look and feel of normal underwear with breathable fabric for comfort. They catch all liquids and odors to allow patients to participate confidently in their normal routine.
2. Save On Incontinence Supplies Through Insurance
The monthly costs of catheter supplies, pull-ups, changing gloves, wipes, and more can quickly add up, becoming a stressful expense. But you don’t have to worry about it by qualifying to receive incontinence supplies through insurance. Best of all, we make the process easy!
Fill out our quick Eligibility Form to see if you're eligible today. We will verify your coverage and match you with the best high-quality items to suit your individual needs. Enjoy having a monthly supply of incontinence products shipped directly to your home. Then we will contact you every month via phone or email to see if you need to make any changes to your supply! .
3. Avoid Bladder Irritants
There are foods and beverages that can irritate your bladder, including:
- Spicy foods.
- Fried foods.
- Greasy items.
- Sugary juices.
Avoid these items or only indulge in moderation to reduce incontinence symptoms. It’s much better to stick to organic juices, water, whole grains, fruits, and veggies to keep your system healthy and happy. Hydration will keep your juices flowing as fruits and veggies provide enough fiber to prevent constipation.
4. Prepare for Accidents
Have a backpack with all the items you may need in the event of an accident. Have a change of clothes, wet wipes, disposal bag to mask smells and odors, as well as enough briefs or catheter supplies to last for the entire day.
5. Be Supportive
Your loved one may have a difficult time facing incontinence, so offer them support and reassurance. Let them know that you’re there to help and confidently assist with managing their symptoms. Participate in their daily routines by making sure they’re prepared with their incontinence supplies and regularly go with them to the doctor to see about new incontinence procedures. While some patients with spinal cord injuries may have incontinence for the rest of their lives, others may be able to retrain their bladder over time.
Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology blog is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.