Cauda Equina Awareness Day: so much to be aware of!
1 October 2022 is Cauda Equina Awareness Day.
Awareness is a concept applied to so many conditions, injuries and infections. But with Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES), there are so many layers to unpack.
Firstly there is the fact that most people aren’t even aware that they have a cauda equina (the name of all the nerves shooting out the base of the spinal cord), let alone that there is a syndrome associated with it caused by pressure being applied (normally by a slipped disc, infection or blood clot) and causing symptoms.
Then there is awareness of the symptoms that identify it (and there are loads to be aware of). Beyond back, hip, leg and foot pain, there are the give-away symptoms or as they are known “red flags” of nerve pain down both legs at the same time, urinary and faecal disturbance, sexual dysfunction and numbness around your “saddle area”.
But… why do you need to be aware of those symptoms?
Well, because… if you have just developed CES, you’d benefit from urgent diagnosis and treatment. The quicker the pressure is relieved the less likely you will suffer permanent symptoms.
It is worth being aware of the potential chronic outcome too, just to make clear how important the urgent treatment is – incontinence, sexual dysfunction, mobility problems (leg function and sensation) and pain.
Sadly, it is not just the public at large that would benefit from this awareness. The healthcare industry also need to be aware as often the key signs are missed and the outcome is catastrophic. GPs, A&E doctors, Osteopaths and Physios alike are negligently ignorant of the condition and its impact, which means that people who need urgent treatment sometimes don’t get it. In fact, sometimes people with the syndrome struggle to get a diagnosis for months.
So… being aware enough to push your doctors to treat you appropriately is hugely important.
Once the pressure has been relieved then residual symptoms can be minimised by appropriate rehab (physio, urinary clinics, sexual dysfunction, etc) and where education in the health service is so patchy it is also important to be aware of the services that you could benefit from, whether in the NHS or provided by charities so you can direct your doctors towards them (or access them yourself).
For some sufferers the catastrophic consequences cannot be avoided… being aware of others who have adjusted to life with the hardest consequences of CES is so important. Speaking to someone who really understands can be life changing.
I truly believe so much awareness is needed!
There is so much information to share!
At Bolt Burdon Kemp we are proud to support people with cauda equina syndrome, not just by proving negligence where it occurs, but by cheerleading the incredible work of charities (like the Cauda Equina Champions Charity) who support people with cauda equina syndrome and who take on the challenging work of “awareness” as their mission.