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Cauda equina syndrome - what is it and what are the symptoms?

View profile for Pam Thompson
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How to prevent, relieve and treat symptoms of back pain

Cauda equina syndrome is a rare and severe type of spinal stenosis (narrowing in the spinal column which can lead to compression of nerves).

What is the cauda equina?

This is the sack of nerve roots (nerves that leave the spinal cord between the spinal bones) at the lower end of the spinal cord. These nerve roots provide the ability to move/feel sensation in the legs, genitals and bladder.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms include:

  • Sciatica on both sides (i.e. pain into both buttocks and/or legs)
  • Weakness or numbness in both legs that is severe or getting worse
  • Numbness around or under your genitals, or around your anus
  • Having difficulty passing urine or being unusually constipated
  • Unable to control/having lack of awareness of when you pass urine or open your bowels.

These symptoms would be called ‘red flags’ and should alert a medical professional to a potentially serious problem. You should not need to have all these symptoms for there to be a high level of suspicion for a serious problem.

What can be done about this?

This condition requires emergency hospital admission, scan and emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on the spinal nerves. The longer this condition is left untreated the more chances there are of permanent nerve damage.

What could permanent nerve damage do?

This could leave you with permanent weakness or even paralysis and permanent loss of control of your bladder and bowel movements. This is why early recognition by the doctor you see is so important, so you can get the treatment you need.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to a delay in the diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome then we may be able to help you pursue a claim for compensation. Our leading team of experts are on hand to offer advice, so please get in touch with us on 0161 696 6165 or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you directly.

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