Published on: 01 Oct, 2018 - Read Time: 3 minutes Minutes
Sexual Dysfunction: A Red Flag Symptom
Cauda Equina Syndrome can cause devastating sexual problems for both males and females.
Unfortunately, the development of sexual problems not only affects an individual’s own confidence. It may also lead to a breakdown of a personal relationship.
Why can Cauda Equina Syndrome lead to sexual problems?
The cauda equina nerves control the sensation around the pelvic area and saddle region, as well as motor function.
If those nerves become compressed or squashed, the nerves are no longer able to communicate sensory messages to the brain. The brain can then no longer send motor instructions to the pelvic region muscles. This results in a sensory and motor function loss.
What sort of sexual problems do people experience?
- Inability to achieve an erection and/or ejaculate and/or orgasm.
- Loss of sensation during intercourse and in the genital area.
“My problems started back in 2001 with unbelievable pain as I was moving. It was like being whacked across the back with a baseball bat and these pains went on for few weeks. I was told it was possibly a trapped nerve and sciatica. It was arranged for me to undergo a MRI scan the second week of December.
On 11 January 2002 I had a terrible fall and lost all function down below, I wet myself and had no feeling. I was taken straight to Frenchay Hospital and was seen by a lovely young doctor. She did a few examinations and said straight away she suspected I had CES. I was sent for another MRI then everything happened really quite quickly and I felt completely overwhelmed and very emotional when having to sign paperwork before surgery. Within a couple of hours I was having emergency surgery. I had severe deep nerve root damage to the L4/L5/S1 and underwent decompression surgery.
Over the years I’ve had a number of falls, numerous hospital admissions due to severe pain and I’ve had nerve blocks but had no luck as scar tissue is too dense. I now take several pain medications. I have no feeling in my left leg, terrible pain and I have no bladder feeling so have to time myself when to go to the toilet or watch what I drink.
Ten years on, I feel that I’ve been left to deal with my situation all by myself.
What people don’t realise with this condition is that it’s a very lonely and dark place and I have felt so alone. I don’t go out due to pain or worrying about falling. I’m 42 and walk with a walking frame. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve had sexual contact with my husband.”
What you should do if you experience sexual problems?
How can Cauda Equina Syndrome be treated?
Cauda Equina Syndrome is a surgical emergency.
To prevent permanent damage a doctor must perform surgery quickly. It is best if this surgery occurs within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. During the procedure (laminectomy) surgeons remove part of the vertebra (called the lamina). This opens up the space surrounding the cauda equina nerves and relieves pressure on the cauda equina nerves.
There are several causes of cauda equine, and depending on the cause a patient may also require other treatment. Treatments could include: high doses of corticosteroids to reduce swelling; antibiotics (in the case of an infection); and potentially radiation or chemotherapy (if a tumour was the cause).
Can sexual problems improve?
Everybody is different.
Some individuals may notice an improvement in their sexual function straight away.
Some individuals may only notice an improvement in their sexual function over a period of time. It could take as long as two years or more and the improvement may not be full.
Unfortunately, some individuals may find that their sexual problems do not improve at all. If symptoms are continuing you should seek advice from your GP.
Should surgery be received before an individual completely loses their sexual function then there is a better chance of recovery
If you would to know more about the red flag signs and symptoms then see our other articles here.