Car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries for people under 65. Depending on the severity of the injury a number of serious complications can occur, many of which are life-altering. The Mayo Clinic explains the possible long-term effects of severe spinal cord injuries.

Respiratory and circulatory issues

When core muscles are affected respiratory issues often result, including problems breathing. Other lung issues can also occur, such as chronic pneumonia or lung infections. Swollen extremities after a spine injury result from circulatory issues, which also entails a greater risk of blood clots and irregular blood pressure. Some people with severe injuries where muscle function is completely impacted need assistance breathing, such as a ventilator.

Muscle atrophy

It’s common for people with severely limited mobility to lose quite a bit of muscle tone. A prolonged lack of activity leads to muscle atrophy, in which muscles waste away and appear smaller under the skin. Limited mobility also makes it hard to meet fitness goals, which increases a person’s risk of developing serious health conditions like heart disease. In this case, a person will need to undergo rehabilitation to prevent further complications. Physical therapy can build muscles and maintain a reasonable weight despite the body’s limitations.

Loss of bowel and bladder control

Muscles affecting bowel and bladder control can also be affected by certain types of spine injuries. Even if organs are unharmed a person will still experience problems because the brain will no longer be able to communicate with those muscle groups. Bladder issues also increase the risk of infections, including infections of the kidney which can be quite serious. A person may also experience kidney stones on a frequent basis.