Syringomyelia. Most of you have probably never heard of syringomyelia, as it only affects roughly 8 people per 100,000 in population. Syringomyelia is a condition in which a fluid filled cyst, called a syrinx, develops inside the spinal cord due to cerebrospinal fluid leaking into the spinal cord. This cyst grows and elongates over time, destroying the spinal cord from the inside. Depending on the location of the syrinx, a person could end up paralyzed from the neck down. This is the worst case scenario, and some people go through life never having any symptoms at all.
Symptoms of syringomyelia include pain, loss of sensation in the trunk and/or extremities, headaches, loss of motor control, loss of bladder and/or bowel control, loss of sexual function and paralysis, which can be temporary or permanent. Some patients feel burning or tingling sensations in their arms or legs.
Syringomyelia is diagnosed thru magnetic resonance imaging, better known as an MRI. Once diagnosed, a Neurosurgeon will decide the best course of treatment for you to follow depending on the severity of your symptoms. Treatment can range from simple changes in your daily activities to reduce impact to your spine, a course of pain relievers or surgery to drain the syrinx.
There are three known causes of syringomyelia, which are congenital, acquired and idiopathic:
- Congenital Syringomyelia is a condition that you are born with, usually a defect known as Arnold Chiari Malformation. This is a condition in which the tonsillar region of your brain distends into the spinal canal, disrupting the flow of cerebrospinal fluid.
- Acquired Syringomyelia is where the syrinx has been caused due to trauma from a fall, whiplash type injury or from a disease such as menegitis. A tumor on or near the spinal cord can also cause the syrinx to form.
- Idiopathic Syringomyelia is a designation given when the doctor can’t determine what cause the syrinx to form. This is very rare, though.
If you find yourself suffering from any of the symptoms above and your doctor has not yet ordered an MRI it would be in your best interest to ask him about syringomyelia and request an MRI. This is true especially if you have ever been injured in an auto accident, slip and fall, or had any other back or neck injury as it can take years for syringomyelia to become symptomatic.