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What is cauda equina syndrome?

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Cauda equina syndrome is a rare condition that occurs when the bundle of cauda equina nerves in the lower back become compressed, notes WebMD. These nerves send signals to the legs, feet and pelvic organs, and people with cauda equina syndrome may need immediate treatment to avoid incontinence and, in some cases, permanent leg paralysis.

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Cauda equina syndrome primarily affect adults, though children born with birth defects or who have spinal injuries may also suffer from the condition, states WebMD. A severe ruptured disk in the lumbar area of the back is the most common cause of cauda equine syndrome, though narrowing of the spinal cord, tumors, spinal infections, complications from surgery and spinal fractures also cause the syndrome. It may be difficult for doctors to diagnose cauda equina syndrome, as its symptoms vary from patient to patient, may develop slowly and can be mistaken for other conditions.

People suffering with severe low back pain; pain, numbness or weakness of the legs; loss or altered sensation in the legs, buttocks, thighs or feet; sudden sexual dysfunction; or problems with bladder or bowel functions may have cauda equina syndrome, notes WebMD. Doctors treat the condition by performing surgery to relieve the pressure on the nerves. They may also prescribe corticosteroids to decrease swelling and antibiotics for patients who have infections.

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