There are numerous ways in which the spine can be damaged. The symptoms and prognosis of any spinal cord issue will largely depend on the cause of the issue, where it is located and the extent of the damage.
Here we take a closer look at spinal cord stroke, its symptoms and how it can be treated.
Spinal strokes are much less common than strokes that affect the brain. Just like any other part of the body, however, the spinal cord relies on a good supply of blood and nutrients. When this sustenance is cut off, for whatever reason, it has the potential to cause a spinal stroke.
If the nerves cannot get enough nutrients, it results in the impairment of their function to and from and the brain. A severe stroke can damage the affected area irreparably, leaving someone permanently paralyzed.
As we get older, our blood vessels narrow and clots can form. Sometimes this is a natural consequence of the ageing process, but there are certain factors that may also increase the likelihood of spinal cord ischemia.
In most cases, a spinal cord stroke occurs if a blood clot blocks an artery feeding the spine directly. This is more likely to happen if the artery has also narrowed because of plaque. If blood pressure is high, this can also contribute to the artery bursting and the necessary nutrients not getting to the spinal cord.
Spinal cord infarction may also occur because of conditions such as vascular damage to the spine, injury which causes the arteries to be damaged or with more specific illnesses such as cauda equine syndrome.
As with most illnesses, injuries or trauma where the spinal cord is affected, the location of the issue is an important factor. In addition, some symptoms may appear almost immediately the spinal stroke occurs but others can come on later.
An individual experiencing a spinal stroke might experience a number of symptoms, including:
Diagnosing spinal stroke can be a complicated process because the associated symptoms are similar to those that may be present as a result of other issues, such as a physical injury to the spine.
The main test for a spinal stroke, however, is to have an MRI scan which produces a detailed image of the spine and shows where the blood supply has been blocked or if there is a bleed.
Treatment of a spinal stroke will depend largely on the cause.
In the short term, an individual may have problems with bowel and bladder management following a spinal stroke. Physiotherapy can be used to help with walking difficulties that arise as a result of the stroke. In addition, the individual might have to cope with challenges such as muscle and joint pain, sexual dysfunction and spasticity as well emotional issues such as depression.
However, the general long term outlook is fairly good for spinal stroke patients, but much depends on where it occurs, the severity and how quickly treatment is obtained.
In many cases, a full recovery is possible with the right medical support.
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