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Urology Awareness Month: potential urological consequences following Cauda Equina Syndrome

Posted: 28/09/2020

September is Urology Awareness Month, which is a yearly event created by The Urology Foundation in order to raise awareness of urological conditions. The charity also helps fund vital research, which is required in order to understand more about these conditions and improve the lives of patients.

What is urology?

Urology is the branch of medicine and physiology related to the function and disorder of the urinary-tract system. This means it covers the kidneys, adrenal glands, ureters, urinary bladder and urethra as well as the male reproductive organs such as the testicles, the prostate and the penis.

As these organs are extremely important and impact our daily lives, diseases and conditions that impact these organs can be devastating.

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a rare neurological condition that can often result in significant urological issues such as long-term urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. It often affects people with back problems, and occurs when sensitive nerves at the base of the spine are compressed (usually by a bulging or a prolapsed disc).

The ‘red flag’ symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome to look out for are:

  • sciatica (pain radiating down one or both legs);
  • sensory disturbance around the ‘saddle’ area ie groin, genitals, anus and buttocks;
  • loss of or altered control and/or function in the bladder;
  • loss of or altered control and/or function of the bowel;
  • loss of or altered sexual sensation or function; and
  • lower limb motor and sensory loss (weakness, reduced reflexes and/or altered sensation).

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a medical emergency as the longer the Cauda Equina nerves are compressed, the higher the likelihood of permanent loss of bladder and/or bowel control and loss of sexual function. In most cases, timely decompression surgery will avoid permanent bladder, bowel and sexual function issues so it is important to be aware of the symptoms to be alert to and to know when to get medical help.

Living with Cauda Equina Syndrome

The most common urological symptoms following a delay in diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome are:

  • urinary incontinence;
  • urinary urgency;
  • loss of vaginal sensation; and
  • erectile dysfunction.

As well as the urological symptoms mentioned above, long-term back and leg pain as well as mobility issues are often experienced. These life-changing physical symptoms often result in psychological symptoms as well, such as anxiety and depression. Therefore, those living with the long-term consequences of Cauda Equina Syndrome will often have difficulty returning to work, socialising and caring for their families.

You might want to consider making a compensation claim if you are unable to work or care for your family. This may be possible if you think the treatment you received was unacceptable; for example, if there was a delay in diagnosing or treating your Cauda Equina Syndrome. Compensation cannot turn back the clock, but it can help ease the financial burden that the condition can cause. It can also help pay for any care or private treatment you may need in the future.

If you are suffering from ongoing symptoms following a diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome, you may want to speak to others who have been through a similar experience. Charities such as The Cauda Equina Syndrome UK Charity have a forum that enables those affected to share experiences and receive support from others.

If you would like more information on Cauda Equina Syndrome or are considering pursuing a legal claim for the management of the condition, you can find out more by visiting our specialist Cauda Equina Syndrome page or by contacting a member of the clinical negligence team.

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