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Saddle Numbness and Cauda Equina Syndrome

Saddle Numbness and Cauda Equina Syndrome

Saddle numbness is often described as a red flag symptom of cauda equina syndrome, but what exactly does it mean and why is it significant?

What is cauda equina syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is a condition where the cauda equina nerves at the base of the spinal cord become compressed or squashed, causing those nerves to lose functionality, prompting various symptoms in the lower body.

What are the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome?

The red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome are usually described as the following:

  • Lower back pain
  • Tingling or weakness in the legs
  • Bladder dysfunction leading to altered experience of urinating such as incontinence, retention of urine or poor flow and straining
  • Numbness in the saddle area
  • Difficulties with sexual intercourse
  • Bowel dysfunction causing faecal incontinence

If you experience any of these symptoms, you need to talk to your medical practitioner. In isolation, these symptoms are likely to be caused by medical problems other than cauda equina syndrome but, in combination, especially if you have problems urinating as well as saddle numbness, they require immediate investigation.

What is 'saddle numbness'?

The term 'saddle area' refers to the parts of the body between the legs that would meet a saddle when riding. This can include the buttocks, anus, perineal area (between the anus and genitals), and scrotum or labia.

'Saddle numbness' is caused by the loss of functioning of the cauda equina nerves which normally serve this region of the body. If the nerves cannot receive messages from the sensation receptors in this area, the brain will not be aware of any feeling, or indeed loss of feeling, in this area.

The loss of sensation in this area may only become apparent when the person tries to clean themselves after emptying their bowel.

Contact your GP immediately

If you are experiencing saddle numbness, it is vital that you contact your GP or other medical practitioner immediately as this is a red flag symptom of cauda equina syndrome. Especially, if you are also experiencing any of the other symptoms mentioned above, you are likely to need an emergency referral for an MRI scan to clarify the cause.

If you attend your GP with symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, they should ask you about any experience of saddle numbness as part of their assessment of your condition.

If you are experiencing lower back and leg pain, but no other symptoms, saddle numbness is one of the red flag symptoms that your GP should warn you about. If you subsequently develop cauda equina syndrome and your medical practitioner had not warned you of the red flag symptoms, you may have been treated negligently and you may be able to claim compensation for any on-going problems that you develop.

Talk to a solicitor

Glynns Solicitors is a team of specialist medical negligence solicitors. We have considerable experience of supporting clients who have suffered from the on-going effects of delayed diagnosis and treatment of cauda equina syndrome. Contact us to discuss your experience of this awful condition and we can help you assess whether you may be able to make a claim for substandard medical care.

Please call us on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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