Duncan James discusses his Cauda Equina Syndrome
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Duncan James details ongoing fears over his rare spinal condition which doctors warned could lead him to become incontinent and suffer erectile dysfunction. What is the condition and what are the early symptoms to spot?
Duncan James is no stranger to pressure preforming.
The star has delighted UK audiences as one part of the successful boy band Blue, including performances on Hollyoaks and on stage in the West End.
This week, the performer will be showing off a new talent when he appears in the Celebrity Masterchef kitchen.
All the more impressive after the star suffered a harrowing health condition back in 2016, when he was rushed to hospital by ambulance as vital fluid from his brain and spine began pouring out of a surgery wound.
Duncan had developed a rare and serious condition known as cauda equina syndrome.
Cauda equina syndrome is a severe type of spinal stenosis where all of the nerves in the lower back suddenly become severely compressed.
Those suffering with the condition have a high risk of paralysis, needing a wheelchair or even possibly death.
Performing in heels for his role in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Duncan only exasperated his condition further and made it “10 times worse”.
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The star had been suffering with a slipped disc, and it began crushing the nerves at the base of his spine leading to dangerous cauda equina syndrome.
The condition is known to cause back pain, numbness in the nether regions, loss of bladder and bowel control, sexual dysfunction and paralysis of the legs.
For Duncan, having a weak back began when he was child and became progressively worse in his 20s.
Speaking to the Mirror, Duncan said: “I was dancing around on stage a lot more.
“I would get this pain in my lower back to the point where I went and saw a specialist and they said I had a protrusion in my disc.
“I had an epidural in my spine to numb all of that area. That operation lasted me for about 10 years and I kind of got on with my life without worrying about or feeling pain.”
Low back pain can be one of the first signs of cauda equina syndrome.
Cauda equina syndrome an abnormal sensation of the body with sensations including numbness, tingling, or burning, and is an extreme version of nerve compression or inflammation.
The pain in the back caused by the condition can also move into the legs or lower extremities causing a sharp, stabbing pain.
Cauda equina may lead to sciatic nerve pain on both sides of the body with a hot pain felt down the backs of the thighs and possibly into the lower legs and feet.
Duncan described his initial symptoms and said: “I was in agony. I’d lost bladder control.
“I felt my left leg start to go numb and started thinking that there was something really wrong. I realised I couldn’t go to the toilet.”
An MRI scan showed the disc’s position had deteriorated and doctors advised him to have an operation to remove some of it.
Doctors informed Duncan that he needed to have an operation immediately and explained how his disc had fallen out of his back and landed on his sciatic nerve and that he was going into Cauda Equina Syndrome.
After the surgery, however, while watching TV with his mum, he felt fluid running down his back.
Doctors told Duncan he was at high risk of getting meningitis and he was rushed back into surgery for another operation to rectify the issue.
While the main danger is gone, Duncan has been left with some long-term issues.
“The feeling never came back in my left leg. I’m still numb from my bum down to my knee. You could stick a pin in my buttock, and I wouldn’t know.”
The singer’s life-threatening condition has given him a new perspective on life and is now more aware of his mortality, food choices and everything he was putting in his body.
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