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Can You Predict Who Will Get Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Can You Predict Who Will Get Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is a rare condition that can affect people with a slipped disc. But it is possible to predict who will develop cauda equina syndrome?

Who gets cauda equina syndrome?

Between 1% and 2% of patients with a disc prolapse will go on to get cauda equina syndrome. Thousands of people in the UK are diagnosed with a slipped disc every year, and many more have generalised lower back pain. Therefore only a very small number of prolapsed discs will turn into cauda equina syndrome.

I have a slipped disc will I get CES?

This means that just because you have a slipped disc does not mean that you will get cauda equina syndrome.

Unfortunately it is not possible to predict the small number of people who will get cauda equina syndrome. It is more likely to affect those with a slipped disc in the lower back, where the lumbar spine is located. More specifically, it is most common at the L4/5 level.

Usually what happens is that the prolapse becomes very large and central, causing it to press upon the cauda equina nerves. Many people suffer a disc prolapse every year, and only a few will find that their prolapse becomes central.

How do I know if my prolapse has turned into cauda equina syndrome?

You will know whether you have developed cauda equina syndrome due to the onset of new symptoms. Cauda equina syndrome is associated with a group of symptoms, which occur because the cauda equina nerves are being compressed and damaged (and are consequently losing function).

The symptoms of cauda equina syndrome are:

  • Leg pain/sciatica in both legs
  • Numbness around the buttocks, perineum and genitals
  • Difficulty urinating, with poor flow, not emptying the bladder fully and loss of sensation
  • Bowel dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction

What to do if you get these symptoms

If you develop these symptoms, you must seek emergency medical help. Even if you have recently been told that your prolapsed disc is under control, you must contact a doctor straight away. Cauda equina syndrome is a progressive condition, so just because you had a negative MRI scan three months ago does not mean that you do not have it now.

Alternatively, you might not have a diagnosis of a prolapsed disc. Sometimes the disc can slip and immediately cause the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome. Or it may be that your cauda equina syndrome is being caused by something else, such as a spinal abscess, tumour or infection.

Delay in treating cauda equina syndrome

If your prolapsed disc turned into cauda equina syndrome but doctors failed to notice and operate quickly, you could be entitled to pursue a claim. Contact us for more information.

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