You’re more likely to have problems with your skin when you have a spinal cord injury.

This is because you’re not able to control your body temperature and the way your blood moves around your body is affected. Skin problems may have an impact on the way you feel about yourself. And a skin issue may get worse without you realising because you have less sensation in your body so often can’t tell when your skin is irritated. By getting in the routine of keeping an eye on your skin and looking after it, you can prevent problems from happening.

Be vigilant with your skin care. Catching something in its early stages is a lot easier to manage than persevering with a skin problem

Damian Smith, one of our spinal cord injury nurse specialists

Looking after your skin

It’s really important to have healthy skin because it:

— Protects you from disease

— Helps you to get rid of waste, as good circulation of blood to the skin allows you to sweat out excess salt through your pores

— Regulates your body temperature

Check your skin twice a day to see if there are any unusual marks. You can do this by keeping your skin clean and moisturising, eating a healthy diet and drinking lots of water. Avoid smoking as it affects your circulation and makes your skin dry.


People who are paraplegic have an 80% chance of developing reoccurring pressure ulcers

Preventing pressure ulcers

Sitting in a wheelchair can increase your risk of developing pressure ulcers, a painful skin condition that can cause bruising, swelling, blisters and cracks.

If it’s not treated early, this skin condition can involve weeks or months of bed rest, which can affect your mental health and finances.

To avoid pressure ulcers, use a cushion on your wheelchair and replace it when it gets old. Also, wear breathable, loose clothing as this will allow your skin to stretch and reduce pressure on it.

Protecting your skin from incontinence

When you unintentionally pass urine, it exposes your skin to excess moisture. This will make it more vulnerable to friction, increasing the risk of pressure ulcers. It can also lead to dermatitis, a type of eczema that makes the skin dry and irritated, and blisters called lesions.

It’s a good idea to speak to healthcare professionals, or your local spinal unit, to address what’s causing your incontinence. In the meantime, try using barrier creams and sprays to protect your skin.

Treating fungal infections

Heat and moisture can cause fungal infections in the folds of your skin, making it flaky and itchy. It’s difficult to manage when you’re in a wheelchair as your skin naturally creases. Speak to your community nurse, or one of our nurse specialists, for advice on treating a fungal infection.

More information

Learn more about caring for your skin and how to prevent pressure ulcers in our factsheets

Pressure ulcers: the basicsPressure care

Autonomic dysreflexiaMore about incontinence and skin

Need support?

If you would like to speak to someone about how to care for your skin and develop a skin care routine that is right for you we have services available to support you. Whether you need practical advice and information or to speak to someone about your mental health and well-being  In the first instance contact our SCI nurses for support and information.