Epidural Abscess Signs and Symptoms

An epidural abscess requires early intervention and treatment for best results. The rare condition can be devastating if treatment is delayed.

Epidural Abscess

Back pain is a very common complaint these days with as many as two-thirds of the U.S. population experiencing it. In most cases, the pain can be managed or eliminated with surgery, medication, exercises, and/or lifestyle changes. But in some cases, the pain is symptomatic of a much more serious condition, and one that should never be brushed aside: an epidural abscess.

An epidural abscess is an infection of the fluid in the spinal cord or surrounding the spinal column. Over time, this infection can grow into an abscess and put pressure on the spinal cord.

Warning Signs

One of the early warning signs of an epidural abscess is back pain. Pain can occur anywhere along the spinal column, depending on where the infection took root, though most epidural abscesses are located in the thoracic or lumbar spinal areas. As the abscess grows and puts more pressure on the spinal column, it can cause physical problems in the body. Most commonly, these problems present themselves in the legs and feet. Symptoms such as dropped foot, numbness and tingling in the legs, feet, and toes, or loss of feeling in the legs are common.

Without proper diagnosis and treatment, an epidural abscess can lead to permanent paralysis, loss of movement, and loss of bowel function.

How It Starts

Although epidural abscesses are infections of the spinal column, they usually don’t start there. Most of these types of infections begin as infection in other parts of the body. Common infections like urinary tract infections, bone infections, bloodstream infections, and even boils can lead to an epidural abscess.


Epidural abscess is extremely rare, but when it does occur it can be devastating. Fortunately, the condition can be diagnosed and treated with extremely effective results. An MRI is required to diagnosis epidural abscess with 100% certainty. Once an abscess has been identified, the patient will need immediate surgery to remove it. After removal, most patients experience restored function if not complete reversal of neurologic symptoms.

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