THIS IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT: READ THIS ENTIRE PAGE
Do Not Take Any Medications You Don’t Absolutely Need!
Two Kinds of Meds Are Often Not Necessary, but We Are Led to Believe They Are:
Please first understand that I am not a physician, and am not a health care professional. I am not providing, nor am I allowed to provide, medical advice. You will need to explore the options addressed here, on your own, and with the advice and counsel of your own physician(s) or health care professionals such as your nurse practitioner or physician's assistant. DO NOT stop taking any medications without first consulting your physician. This section is merely to alert you to a potential alternate course. An alternate course that may vastly improve your LIFE!
ANTIBIOTICS vs. HUMAN ANTIBODIES
Perhaps the most important thing that people can learn about being healthy (especially people with catheters) is this: exercise your immune system. That bears repeating. Exercise your immune system. If people take antibiotics for every infection, their own antibodies do not develop or work as well. In short, they become antibiotic-dependent. Most people, even high-level quads, can have fantastic immune systems if they exercise them. Click here for a good article by Lawrence Wilson, MD.
Common and popular medical advice is to take antibiotics for every bladder infection. Think, for a moment, why many doctors and other healthcare professionals might suggest such a course of treatment. The answer is they (understandably) do not want to be held liable if someone has complications resulting from an infection. They don't want to be sued. So the safe answer is to prescribe antibiotics. But anyone with much experience combating bladder infections knows that this regimen will not improve their resistance to future bladder infections. Bouts with bladder infections can be incredibly draining, unpleasant, and painful. So you might consider an alternate way to avoid them.
When I was first injured I dutifully followed the medical advice I was given. With an indwelling Foley catheter, a pipeline for bacteria is always present to the urinary tract, and bladder infections are inevitable, regardless of sterility precautions. When I would get a bladder infection I was down and out for three to five days. Even with increased water consumption, cranberry juice, and antibiotics. The infections were terrible. And they were not any less frequent as the years went on. Finally, I decided something had to be done. The next time I started to get a bladder infection – we soon learn the signs (odoriferous urine, disreflexia, malaise, onset of body aches, etc.) – I vowed to let my own body use its immune system to get over it. I paid special attention to drinking water at least every hour, eating healthy foods, and getting plenty of rest to give my body a fighting chance. It wasn't easy. It wasn't fun. The first time it took a little longer to get over the infection than with the antibiotics. But the next bladder infection did not come as soon, wasn't as debilitating, and it was defeated more readily by my own antibodies. Eventually, I got to the point where I am unaffected by bladder infections. If I get them (or if I get infection-causing bacteria in my bladder) I don't even notice. I have not been down and out for even one day, due to bladder infection-type issues over the past 15 years.
Of course, there are risks to exercising one's own antibodies. Although I did not seek medical advice in my quest to wean myself off of antibiotics, I would recommend that when you try to do so, you should seek the consultation and oversight of a physician. Your primary care physician may be hesitant to engage in such a program, for liability reasons. With malpractice claims the way they are today, I can't say I blame them. But if you push him or her a little, explain that you will begin antibiotics if you take a turn for the worse, and provide a written release, your PCP should be made to feel at ease in assisting you in this regard. Feel free to forward or print this page and send it or take it to your physician.
The main thing to remember is to listen to what your body tells you. If you try to get away from antibiotics and you start getting really sick, maybe your immune system is not as strong as it needs to be ... yet. You may need antibiotics for some bladder infections. But if you can get through one or more infections without antibiotics, you may begin to develop and build a defense to the devastating effects of bladder infections.
Not only can bladder infections cause us to feel terrible for several days, but they can eventually become lethal. When one chooses not to exercise his or her immune system, and bacteria become resistant to the kind of antibiotics prescribed by doctors, eventually that call kill the person, in a painful and torturous way. So the choice is up to you. You can continue to take antibiotics for every bladder infection or UTI (urinary tract infection), and suffer through repeated infections, running the risk of eventually dying. Or you can tough-it-out through some bladder infections without prescription antibiotics, and potentially get to the place where several of us are happy to be: unaffected by bladder infections, with very strong immune systems.
If you do take antibiotics, you should take the full prescription, even if you feel better (otherwise, the bacteria are not completely killed and they build resistence to that antibiotic). I don't even start antibiotics unless I absolutely HAVE to. If one takes too many antibiotics one's immune system does not develop and flourish. This is what fuels the popular misconception that people become immune to antibiotics. What really happens is that people can become immuno-suppressed. That is, their own immune systems (natural antibodies) are not well cultivated to defend against the ever-changing host of bacteria surrounding us. Immuno-suppressed people are not "immune" to antibiotics. The infection-causing bacteria become immune to the prescription antibiotics. And immuno-suppressed peoples' own bodies don't produce sufficient antibodies to fight-off the bacteria that cause bladder (or other) infections. Their immune systems are weak because they become reliant on prescription antibiotics. They haven't been exercised.
Also antibiotics do nothing for viral infections. 'Bugs' (bacteria) that cause bladder/UTI infections can be killed or diminished with human antibodies, or prescription antibiotics. But some infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Antibiotics don't treat viruses. I’m not a scientist or a doctor so I don't know what, if anything, human-produced antibodies do to combat viral infections (caused by viruses). But I do know that ever since I exercised and strengthened my immune system, I don't get viral bladder infections either. The human body is amazing!
The people who irresponsibly prescribe or take antibiotics too often, or who irresponsibly fail to take the full complement prescribed, are contributing to newer and stronger strains of bacteria that mutate and grow resistant to currently known prescription antibiotics.
One more thing. Antibiotics are NOT pain-killers (except maybe in the placebo sense). Sure, over time they can kill infection that can cause pain. But they do not suppress the body's central nervous system pain response. I know healthcare professionals who tell me that it is a very common occurrence for people to come in to their medical office wanting an antibiotic prescription, for a self-diagnosed ailment in themselves or their children, and then get angry if they don't get one. I applaud doctors who listen to their patients. And I applaud doctors who won't give out antibiotics when they are not needed, event when unruly patients demand prescriptions.
Muscle spasms are a regular occurrence with a spinal cord injury. Anti-spasm medication simply causes the muscles to go dormant, and thus atrophy at a rapid rate. Most paraplegic or quadriplegic patients you’ll see have little tiny stick legs. That's because the muscles in their legs have atrophied to almost nothing. Anti-spasm medication accelerates the muscle atrophy process.
After more than 20 years, I still have pretty good size in my legs, because they spasm occasionally (I've devised some hooks on the bottom of my shoes to keep my feet from falling off my wheelchair). Sure, my legs are not as big as they once were, and my arms are also much smaller than in my rugby-playing days. But I’m not a 'stick figure,' and I truly believe that the lack of anti-spasm medication has allowed me to keep more muscle mass and better skin integrity than most quadriplegics.
I did not know the kind of benefits I would see from my decision to forgo anti-spasm medication, so I'm no great wise man. I just knew that I did not want to take any medication I didn't have to. The normal routine is to treat spasms with drugs like Valium. I took an active role in my treatment, and questioned the suggested course. After discussing it with a doctor, I decided I could live with spasms in my legs, and to a lesser degree in my arms. I am very glad I chose that course of action. My skin and tissue have been extremely healthy, and I do not do weight-shifts.
Most quads and paras need to shift their bodies every hour or so to take weight off their butts, in order to avoid decubiti (bed sores). I haven't done a single formal "weight-shift" in over 20 years, and I haven't had a single decubitus that whole time. I attribute that to the fact that I still have some meat (muscle) on my butt. And I attribute the muscle to the fact that I chose not to take anti-spasm medications.
By the way, my muscle spasms just naturally became less and less pronounced with time. If you can live with a little spasticity for a while, I recommend strongly considering no anti-spasm meds (unless it will cause you danger). Talk it over with your doctor. Again, feel free to send him or her this page.