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Cauda Equina Syndrome Overview

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Treating Cauda Equina Syndrome

If you have cauda equina syndrome, you are probably wondering about treatment, recovery, and the long-term outcome (prognosis).

You'll need prompt treatment to relieve pressure on nerves. Surgery must be done quickly to prevent permanent damage, such as paralysis of the legs, loss of bladder and bowel control, sexual function, or other problems. It is best if this occurs within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Depending on the cause of your CES, you may also need high doses of corticosteroids. These can reduce swelling. If you are diagnosed with an infection you may need antibiotics.

Even with treatment, you may not retrieve full function. It depends on how much damage has occurred. If surgery is successful, you may continue to recover bladder and bowel function over a period of years.

Living With Cauda Equina Syndrome

If permanent damage has occurred, surgery cannot always repair it. Your cauda equina syndrome is chronic. You will need to learn ways to adapt to changes in your body's functioning. You'll find that both physical and emotional support is essential.

Try to involve your family in your care. Many professionals can also provide you support. Depending on your limitations, you can seek help from:

  • An occupational or physical therapist
  • A social worker
  • A continence advisor
  • A sex therapist

And, as with many conditions, there may be nothing quite as helpful as support from those who really understand what you're going through. That's why joining a cauda equina support group may be a good idea.

If you have loss of bladder or bowel function, the following tips may help:

  • Use a catheter to completely empty your bladder three or four times a day.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and use good personal hygiene to prevent urinary tract infections.
  • Check for waste and clear the bowels with gloved hands. If needed, use glycerin suppositories or enemas.
  • Wear protective pads and pants to prevent leaks.

Also, ask your doctor about medication for help with pain, as well as bladder and bowel problems.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on August 04, 2012
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