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The little-known danger of cauda equina syndrome and car wrecks

When people think of car accidents, they usually think of whiplash, broken bones and even traumatic brain injuries. Cauda equina syndrome isn’t usually on their radar – but it probably should be.

Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is a serious neurological condition that occurs when the roots of the cauda equina nerve bundle at the base of the spinal cord are compressed due to slipped discs in the spine. The swelling that usually happens after such an injury can further compress those nerves and make the condition even more apparent.

CES requires immediate medical attention and can lead to permanent loss of lower-body function if not promptly treated, so that makes it particularly important to recognize the signs of this medical emergency.

What are the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome?

If you have been in a car accident and have injured your lower back, you should be aware of the symptoms of CES, which can include:

  • Severe low back pain: Pain that is intense and severe, particularly in the lower back, may be a sign of CES, especially when that pain is associated with any other symptoms.
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control: CES can cause a loss of bowel or bladder control, which may manifest either as incontinence or an inability to urinate or have a bowel movement. This can come on gradually or be sudden.
  • Numbness or tingling: Numbness or tingling in the groin, buttocks or legs – the “saddle” area – are a defining feature of CES
  • Weakness in the pelvis, legs or feet: Weakness or difficulty moving the legs or feet may indicate CES and pelvic weakness are common.
  • Sexual dysfunction: CES can also cause sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction or loss of sensation during sex.

If you experience any of these symptoms after a car accident, seek immediate medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent permanent damage and improve your chances of recovery.

When you or your loved one has suffered a severe injury like this in a wreck, it’s wisest to explore all your legal rights and your options for compensation.