Living With a Spinal Cord Injury (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
A spinal cord injury (SCI) generally affects the process of eliminating waste from the intestines. This can result in a:
You or a caregiver can manage both of these types of bowel problems to prevent unplanned bowel movements, constipation, and diarrhea. Although this often seems overwhelming at first, knowing what to do and establishing a pattern makes bowel care easier and reduces your risk of accidents.
When choosing a way to deal with bowel problems, you and your rehabilitation (rehab) team will discuss such factors as the type of bowel problem you have, your diet, whether you or a caregiver will do the program, and any medicines that may affect your program.
For a reflexive bowel, you usually use a stool softener, a suppository to trigger the bowel movement, and/or stimulation with your finger (digital stimulation). There are many stool softeners and suppositories available. You will have to experiment to find the one that works best for you.
For a flaccid bowel, you usually use digital stimulation and manual removal (disimpaction) of the stool. At first, you do this program every other day. Later, you may need to do it more often to prevent accidents. You may also have to adjust how much and when you eat.
For some people with SCI, eating more fiber can help with managing their bowel habits. Good sources of fiber include whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables.
For best results:
It is important that you practice cleanliness and be gentle while inserting anything into the anus.
Note: Bowel problems can trigger autonomic dysreflexia, a syndrome in which there is a sudden onset of very high blood pressure and headaches. If not treated promptly and correctly, it may lead to seizures, stroke, and even death. Although autonomic dysreflexia rarely leads to these more serious complications, it is important to know the symptoms and watch for them. Autonomic dysreflexia is more common in people with an injury to the thoracic nerves of the spine or above (T6 or above).
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