The effects of intesive care on your body
Weakness and weight loss
It is normal to feel weak and tired at first. During your stay in intensive care, being bedridden and inactive, you have lost a large part of your muscle mass, especially if your stay was long and if you were under artificial respiration. You will regain weight and strength as you recover.
This process can take from a few weeks to several months. We recommend that you keep a journal in which you can record your progress and measure your progress over time. This will help you maintain your motivation and morale. The Lifemapp-diary application allows you to continue the diary created for you by your loved ones and caregivers in the form of a convalescence diary. Do not hesitate to ask your loved ones to share it with you.
In the case of a hospitalization in intensive care for a respiratory problem, it is common to be short of breath after your stay, from a few months to several years. Some of the after-effects can be resolved with the help of physical rehabilitation, while others, unfortunately, can remain permanent. In any case, an adapted and assiduous re-education will allow you to recover, in whole or in part, your breath. Surround yourself with professionals who will guide you towards the best possible recovery.
Voice and the consequences of intubation
The intubation tube that helped you breathe (if you had respiratory assistance) passes between the vocal cords. After extubation, you may experience throat pain, dryness of the mouth and throat, and your voice may be a little altered. This should pass with time. If the pain is too severe or persists for more than a week, consider reporting it to your doctor. For the first few days, avoid straining your voice to give your vocal cords time to recover.
You may also have marks or small sores at the corners of your mouth where the cord that held the intubation tube attached used to run. They will quickly reabsorb, you can apply a lip stick to promote healing.
Skin and hair
After a passage in resuscitation, It is common for the skin to be dry and irritated, sometimes to the point of itching. This may be related to edema or significant variations in blood pressure (tension) when you were in an unstable state: the body promotes the perfusion of vital organs and the skin is often the first to suffer the consequences of hypotension. You can speed up the repair process by moisturizing your skin regularly until it regains its normal texture. You can take advantage of this moment to use a soft moisturizing product whose scent pleases you or soothes you, or to practice self-massage which will bring you relaxation and relief from any tightness or tension.
It is also possible to experience hair loss, sometimes up to several months after your discharge from intensive care.
Also note that your eyes may be dry after a long period of coma. Talk to your doctor, who may prescribe artificial tears. If the dryness persists, consult an ophthalmologist who will help you find a solution.
Scars and hematomas
You may have scars, related to the various treatments you have undergone to treat and monitor yourself.
- If you had a tracheostomy to facilitate your respiratory independence, you have a scar at the base of your neck.
- You may have slight scarring on the sides of your neck or in your groin area if you have had a central line inserted to give you certain medications or if you have needed dialysis.
- Arterial catheters also sometimes leave slight scars on the wrists, on the radial artery.
- For small round scars on the chest or abdomen, these may be drains that have been placed.
- Finally, of course, if you had to undergo surgery, you may have more significant scars.
- Allow yourself to tame those marks that speak to your resilience.
Massaging your scars regularly will diminish their appearance until some disappear. Some creams help with this healing process, so don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist.
You may also have hematomas in the early stages: they are related to the anticoagulant treatments that were administered to you during your bed rest period in order to avoid phlebitis. These hematomas will gradually resolve in a few days or weeks depending on their size.
Changes in hearing, taste, touch and smell
Your sensory abilities may be slightly altered by your time in the ICU. You may experience changes in taste and smell. Taste can be altered by certain treatments, for example, some medications leave a metallic taste in the mouth. This will disappear when the treatment is stopped. Many patients report craving cold sensations (ventilators, ice bladders) or very cold food (popsicles) at the end of their stay in the ICU or just after. Don’t hesitate to give in to these desires!
You may also notice a slight temporary short-sightedness due to the shallow depth of vision in a hospital room, or strange sensations like tingling on the skin.
These changes in your senses may be unsettling or stressful, but they are only temporary and will disappear over time. With the return to your normal life, these sensations should return to normal. If you don’t see any improvement after a few weeks, talk to your doctor.
In intensive care, it is extremely common to catheterize patients to accurately monitor their renal function. After several weeks with a catheter, and in connection with the loss of some of your muscle mass, you may have difficulty controlling yourself and experience episodes of incontinence. Rest assured, this should return to normal. If it does not improve in a few weeks, it may be useful to consult a urologist who can prescribe perineal physiotherapy to recover all your functions.
Also be aware of the symptoms of a urinary tract infection: Inability to urinate for several hours. Burning sensation when you urinate. Presence of blood in the urine.
This should lead you to consult your doctor who will prescribe a simple treatment if necessary.
A stay in the intensive care unit can cause a lot of physical damage, but it can also cause stress and psychological consequences for the patient.