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Cauda Equina Syndrome

Symptoms are caused by compression of the bundle of nerves originating from the bottom of your spinal cord.

Common Signs & Symptoms

  • Severe low back pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the groin area (also called saddle anaesthesia/paresthesia)
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control (inability to urinate (wee) or incontinence)
  • Sexual problems (dysfunction) that occurred suddenly
  • Pain, loss of sensation or weakness/ clumsiness in one or both legs

Description

Symptoms are caused by compression of the bundle of nerves originating from the bottom of your spinal cord. This is most commonly caused by a large disc prolapse which bulges into the area around your spinal cord (spinal canal) and compresses your spinal cord. This compression can also be caused by tumours, cysts, severe bony degeneration or excessive bleeding into the spinal canal. Prolonged compression of these nerves can lead to permanent damage and paralysis of the legs.

Advice & Treatment

Cauda equina can be confirmed by an MRI or CT scan and surgery to take the pressure off the nerves is usually the best option.
Rehabilitation is individual as it depends on the symptoms and signs you have following surgery. Recovery depends on the severity of the compression and how long your nerves were affected. In severe cases it may take years to recover but, at worst, some never recover.

True cauda equina is an urgent medical emergency. If you suspect you have this, GO TO A&E NOW.

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