The skin is the largest organ in the human body and protects it from all manner of unruly germs and free radicals. Whether it be bacteria, UV rays or foreign objects, your skin is the first line of defense. So it stands to reason that ensuring you care for your skin after a spinal cord injury is of the utmost importance.
Post-SCI skin care is not only important in maintaining a healthy exterior, it helps to keep your insides functioning properly as well. In fact, improper skin management can quickly lead to complications, and in the worst cases, even more time in the hospital.
There is more to protecting skin than simply using sunscreen, or washing and moisturizing. And there are specific needs post-SCI which require careful attention to skin care. Read on to find out exactly what those are.
Having a spinal cord injury doesn’t change the fact that nutrition is vital in the plight to keep your skin in good condition. The phrase you are what you eat is apt, being that the nutrients you put into your body are continuously rebuilding lost skin cells.
Eat a diet of moderation; not too many sugary foods and plenty of proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables. Vitamin E, an antioxidant, is very nutritious for the skin, helping to both protect and repair it. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t create Vitamin E on their own so it must be sourced externally. Foods with this vitamin include almonds and other nuts, sweet potato, and wheat germ oil.
It is important to find products, such as moisturizers and soaps, that work well with your skin, and effectively cleanse and moisturize it. You may find specific ingredients work well in different ways, and essential oils all have very specialized benefits. Rose, chamomile, aloe vera, and calamine are all extremely gentle and calming on the skin, and are often found in the most products for sensitive skin. Avoid products with too many synthetic ingredients. Shops that offer natural product alternatives are often a good place to find these types of items.
In order to maintain healthy skin, you must keep good circulation. The skin has large numbers of blood vessels to serve it, and good blood circulation will ensure all skin is provided with oxygen, nutrients and blood. Diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, and elevated blood pressure can all cause vascular disease, which causes a distinct narrowing of blood vessels and ultimately less blood flow to the tissues that require it. In order to keep your skin in check in regards to vascular disease, consulting with your doctor is crucial.
You can also use natural ingredients to facilitate blood flow, and these tend to be quite stimulating essential oils such as cinnamon, mint, ginger, and sandalwood.
Although your level of paralysis may vary depending upon the severity of your spinal cord injury, it is important you try and keep movement somewhere in your skin management regime. Try not to sit or lay for long periods of time, and be aware that a simple change of position (to another of good posture!) can help combat poor circulation and the formation of pressure sores from extended lack of oxygen to a region of the skin.
There are small changes you can make to your day to day life which can promote healthy skin, and these include simply being careful! Small knocks and bumps while moving may seem small at the time, but for those with limited sensation in varying parts of the body, these can cause cuts and scrapes, that if unattended to, can become more serious or even infected.
It sounds obvious, but make sure you have protective sun cream and garments on while in the sun to prevent the sun’s harmful rays from penetrating the skin. Likewise, utilize sufficiently warm clothing when out in the cold. Be aware that if you have a high lack of sensation, you may not feel your skin get too hot/cold, so thorough checks and precautions are crucial.
Checking your skin is an important part of skin management, and means you can ensure there are no cuts, sores, or bruises left ignored which should be attended to. Inspecting skin is a necessary routine, and should soon become a good habit. Check harder to see areas with a mirror or request help from another person.
Skin management is important after spinal cord injury, regardless of how much sensation may have been lost. Ensuring you follow practices that promote healthy skin will help avoid further ailments caused by bad circulation and other factors. Look after your skin and it will look after you!