Low back pain is a common problem nowadays. It is affecting millions of people in the US. In some cases, chronic back pain can be a symptom of cauda equina syndrome. It is a condition where a patient needs surgery to recover.
CES is a rare disorder and is a surgical emergency. A person needs immediate medical care to prevent any complications. Without getting timely treatment, a person may experience adverse outcomes. These outcomes include paralysis, impaired bladder, and difficulty in walking. Other neurological and physical problems also accompany them. This blog shares a detailed insight into cauda equina syndrome (CES).
What Is Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES)?
Cauda equina syndrome is an uncommon but serious disorder. In CES, the nerves at the end of the spinal cord experience significant pressure and swelling. It is an abnormal sensation of the body. A person may feel numbness, tingling, or burning.
CES affects the equine adversely. Equina is a bundle of nerve roots present at the lower end of the spinal cord in the lumbosacral spine. Its primary function is to send and receive messages from your legs, feet, and pelvic organs.
Causes of Cauda Equina Syndrome
Cauda equina syndrome is less common in children. But it may appear in children who have a congenital spinal disability or a spinal injury.
Primarily, CES is caused by significant narrowing of the spinal canal. It compresses the nerve roots below the spinal cord level. Some other causes are as follows:
- A spinal lesion or malignant tumor
- A spinal infection or inflammation
- Traumatic injury
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Severe injuries to the lower back
- Complications from a lumbar spine injury, including a car crash, gunshot, or stabbing
- Spinal arteriovenous malformations
- Birth abnormalities
- Postoperative lumbar spine surgery complications
- Spinal anesthesia
Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome
Various signs and symptoms go with CES. One can tell the severity of these symptoms by the degree of compression of the precise nerve roots.
Some of the most prominent signs that your healthcare provider may look for include:
- Severe lower back pain.
- Urinary retention.
- Fecal incontinence.
- Pain, weakness, or numbness in one or both legs. This causes problems while performing daily routine activities.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Saddle anesthesia-loss of or altered feelings in the anus, genitals, and buttock area.
- Weakness in lower extremities due to paralysis of usually more than one nerve root.
- Sciatica- pain in the lower back or legs.
Testing and Diagnosis of CES
Several conditions may have symptoms like the CES. These disorders include:
- Herniated disc
- Peripheral nerve disorder
- Conus medullaris syndrome
- Spinal cord compression
- Lumbosacral plexopathy
Your healthcare provider may perform several tests to confirm the presence of CES. Your doctor will check your medical history to analyze your health and symptoms. He will do a physical examination to access the patient’s strength, reflexes. He may ask you for blood tests. Some of the other recommended tests include:
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):
MRI uses magnetic fields and computer technology to produce three-dimensional pictures of the body. From MRI, your doctor will get images of the spinal cord, nerve roots, and adjacent areas.
If an MRI is not available, a CT scan can provide information that can help to examine the anatomy of the region.
An X-ray of the spinal canal is taken after injecting a contrast substance into the surrounding cerebrospinal regions. It identifies the displacement of the spinal cord due to herniated discs, bone spurs, malignancies, and other factors.
Treatment Options of Cauda Equina Syndrome
Patients who have cauda equina syndrome need immediate treatment to avoid further complications. Your healthcare provider will recommend treatment after identifying the exact cause of the CES.
Your doctor may suggest some antibiotics and corticosteroids if you are diagnosed with an infection. They help to reduce swelling and inflammation. If a tumor is a cause behind CSE development, surgery may be followed by radiation or chemotherapy.
Surgical treatment is recommended to prevent permanent damage to patients. These damages include paralysis of the legs, loss of bladder and bowel control, sexual function, or other difficulties. If your surgery goes well, you may be able to restore bladder and bowel function over a year. Even if you get proper treatment, you may not be able to regain full functionality.
Living With Cauda Equina Syndrome
If you do not get any relief even after the surgery, learning different ways to adapt to your body’s functioning changes is essential. A patient needs physical and emotional support. You can ask for help from an occupational or physical therapist. In some cases, joining a cauda equina, a support group may be a good idea.
Consult our board-certified team of surgeons at Complete Medical Wellness to ensure a reliable treatment and diagnosis in case of getting affected by cauda equina syndrome.