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Cauda Equina Syndrome Causes

Cauda equina syndrome is a condition that affects the nerves at the base of the spine. In this article we explore the causes of cauda equina syndrome in more detail.

Cauda equina syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome is a neurological condition. It happens when the cauda equina nerves are compressed and damaged. The cauda equina nerves sit at the base of the spinal cord and serve the lower limbs, saddle area and pelvic organs, providing both function and sensation.

Causes of cauda equina syndrome

But why would the cauda equina nerves become compressed?

There are various ways in which the nerves can become compressed, including the following:

Slipped disc: a slipped disc is also called a herniated or prolapsed disc. It is when the inner part of a vertebral disc bulges through the outer wall. This can compress the surrounding structures, including the cauda equina nerves.

Sequestered disc: a sequestered disc is very similar to a slipped disc, but involves part of the disc breaking off and migrating to the spinal canal. This fragment can compress the cauda equina nerves.

Inflammatory conditions: an inflammation around the base of the spine can reduce the size of the spinal canal, in which the cauda equina nerves sit. This will impinge the nerves. Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis and is one example of how an inflammatory condition can result in cauda equina syndrome.

Spinal stenosis: spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal narrows. This will have the same effect as an inflammation – the spinal canal reduces in sizes, impinging upon the nerves.

Space-occupying lesions: lesions such as spinal tumours or abscesses can press upon nearby structures, such as the cauda equina nerves.

Traumatic accidents: traumatic accidents such as a road traffic accident can result in internal injuries that press upon the nerves.

Other: other causes include infection, sarcoidosis and spinal fractures.

What to do if your cauda equina nerves become compressed

If your cauda equina nerves are compressed, you will begin to experience the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome. These include: lower back pain, reduced sensation in the saddle area and bladder dysfunction. If you develop these symptoms and you have a history of the aforementioned causes, you must seek immediate medical attention.

Cauda equina syndrome must be treated with surgical decompression without delay. If medical practitioners fail to diagnose and treat cauda equina syndrome in a reasonable amount of time, there will be grounds for a compensation claim.

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