BPS 15: What are the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is a serious medical condition that requires urgent medical attention. In case patients with the cauda equina syndrome do not receive the surgical intervention, it could result in serious adverse effects. Some of the adverse effects of the condition include impaired bladder, paralysis, difficulty walking, bowel control, and other physical and neurological issues.

Here we will look at the details of cauda equina syndrome including symptoms, prognosis, and treatments.

Cauda Equina Syndrome – An Overview

Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) is a condition that results due to damage to the spinal nerves. The condition occurs due to a damage to the cauda equina nerves that are situated below the end of the spinal cord.

The term cauda equina is a Latin word that means ‘horse’s tail’. The condition is so named as it occurs due to damage to nerves on the spine that resembles the tail of the horse. The nerves extend through the lumbar spine towards the sacrum and down to each leg similar to a horse’s tail.

What are the Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Symptoms of cauda equina syndrome include lower back pain, numbness in the anus, loss of bladder or bowel control, pain that seems to radiate to the back. The symptoms can develop suddenly or may take months.

The onset of cauda equina syndrome is generally marked with the following two conditions.

Gradual Onset — Symptoms in gradual onset may occur gradually over time. The symptoms may occur intermittently over a course of weeks. Gradual onset results in partial loss of bowel and bladder function. It may also result in recurring back pain, numbness, and muscle weakness. In comes cases, sciatica may occur in one or both legs.

Acute Onset — Acute onset involve the rapid development of symptoms. The symptoms include significant loss of bowel and bladder function and lower back pain. The sensory and motor deficits generally develop within a day in case of acute onset.

The patient may develop cauda equina syndrome even when there is no history of back pain. In some cases, the condition occurs in patients who have a recent lower back or leg pain. Also, the loss of bladder or bowel control may include constipation (inability to eliminate stool or urine) or incontinence (inability to retain stool or urine).

Treatment of Cauda Equina Syndrome

Acute onset of the condition that includes loss of bowel or bladder control, sexual dysfunction, or paralysis may require surgery. You will need prompt treatment if you have cauda equina syndrome. The condition if not treated can result in serious nerve damage. It’s important to get treatment for acute onset of cauda equina within 48 hours.

Medications may be prescribed to reduce symptoms of cauda equina syndrome. High doses of corticosteroids may be required to reduce swelling and inflammation. Antibiotics may be prescribed in case of an infection. Chemotherapy and radiation may be required in case a tumor is responsible for the cauda equina syndrome.




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Robin BackPainExpert

Physiotherapists & Back Pain Expert

Twenty years ago I was lucky to survive a serious hockey injury. In a sport where big men zoomaround on hard ice and solid wood sticks are slung furiously, a difficult back injury is what every player fears.
It took a long time for me to climb back to a normal life. But when I did, I was determined to spend the rest of his life helping back pain victims everywhere.
As a physiotherapist and back pain expert I have treated thousands of patients over 20 years, built a respected back pain clinic, created the site BackPainSecrets.Com and authored the book “Back Pain Secrets.”
Learn more about me here.