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Cauda Equina
Can Cauda Equina Syndrome cause sexual problems?

Can Cauda Equina Syndrome cause sexual problems?

The short answer is “Yes, cauda equina syndrome can cause lack of control over sexual functions.''

What is the cauda equina and what does it do?

The cauda equina is a group of nerves found at the bottom of the spinal cord. These nerves travel through the spinal canal, over the sacrum and down the back of both legs. They control the following important functions:

  • Sensation in the legs
  • Sensation in the buttocks and the area between the legs, commonly called the 'saddle' area.
  • Control over movement of legs
  • Control of urinary function and bowel function
  • Control of sexual functioning
  • Movement of the feet

It can be seen how important these nerves are and how devastating it can be if they become damaged in any way.

What happens when someone has cauda equina syndrome?

When someone has cauda equina syndrome, a problem with the spine (e.g. spinal stenosis, a tumour, a herniated disc) can cause pressure on the vertebrae in the lower (lumbar) region of the spine, leading to compression (squashing) of the cauda equina nerves. If the nerves are compressed, their ability to identify and pass on sensations and messages to and from the brain and along the central nervous system will become impaired. As time passes, it is likely that the compression will worsen and the loss of functioning will worsen too.

Cauda equina and sexual function

The compression of the cauda equina nerves can affect sexual functioning. Depending on the degree of nerve compression, it might cause the following problems:

  • Inability to achieve and/or sustain an erection
  • Inability to ejaculate
  • Loss of genital sensation
  • Loss of vaginal sensation
  • Loss of libido
  • Failure to reach an orgasm

For many people this can have a distressing impact on their self-confidence and personal relationships.

Can this outcome be prevented?

The best way to prevent or recover from problems of sexual functioning is if your cauda equina syndrome is diagnosed promptly and treated urgently.

The early signs of cauda equina syndrome are pain in the lower back, pain or weakness in the legs and alterations when urinating such as reduced flow or difficulty voiding the bladder. At this point, it is generally agreed that, if surgery takes place within 48 hours, the chances of full sensory recovery are good.

If the symptoms deteriorate to painless retention of urine and incontinence, the chances of recovering sensation are much worse and the devastating impact on sexual function may remain for life.

Medical Negligence

It is clear that a prompt response to the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome is absolutely vital to long-term patient well-being. If diagnosis, investigation and treatment are delayed, the outcome can be catastrophic. If delay is due to ignorance or incompetence of the key medical practitioners, the patient may be entitled to claim compensation for their pain and damage and the impact on their life.

If this sounds like you or a loved one, contact us at Glynns Solicitors to discuss your case with a solicitor experienced in cauda equina cases.

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