When it strikes the cord...

Spinal cord stroke, also known as spinal stroke, takes place when the blood supply to the spinal cord is reduced or blocked and the spine does not get the essential nutrients and oxygen, writes Dr Umesh Srikantha

spine

Spinal cord stroke may not be heard about too often but is gradually emerging to be a major concern among doctors. Due to a lack of adequate awareness about the same, recognition of the symptoms gets delayed, thereby leading to late initiation of the treatment.

Spinal cord stroke, also known as spinal stroke, takes place when the blood supply to the spinal cord is reduced or blocked and the spine does not get the essential nutrients and oxygen. As a result, the tissues on the spinal cord get damaged and may not be able to transmit nerve impulses or messages to other parts of the body. These nerve impulses are primarily responsible for controlling various body activities like the movement of arms and legs and allowing the organs to function appropriately.

The signs

It is essential to understand that the symptoms of a spinal stroke depend on the part of the spinal cord that is affected and the intensity of the damage on the spinal cord. While in most cases, the symptoms appear all of a sudden, in some cases they may be recognisable a few hours after the stroke has occurred. The most common signs include sudden and severe neck or back pain, muscle weakness in the legs, issues in controlling the bowel and the bladder, feeling like there is a tight band around the torso, spasms in muscle, numbness, tingling sensation, paralysis, inability to feel heat or cold. It may also affect the brain and result in difficulty in speaking, vision problems, confusion, dizziness or a sudden headache.

What causes a spinal stroke?

A spinal cord stroke appears when there is a cut-off in the blood supply to the spine which may be a result of several reasons. Most commonly, the disruption in blood supply occurs due to the narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the spinal cord. This condition is known as atherosclerosis and is caused by a build-up of plaque. While the arteries narrow and become weak with increasing age, those with conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity and diabetes are at a greater risk of spinal cord stroke. While spinal strokes may result in long-term complications like mobility problems, paralysis, incontinence, sexual dysfunction, muscle, joint, or nerve pain and anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, lifestyle modification and appropriate diet can help in complete recovery.

(The author is consultant, neurosurgery, Aster CMI Hospital)

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