Syringomyelia is a fluid filled cyst that develops within the spinal cord. Over time the cyst can grow and start to cause pressure in the spinal cord as well as pain, stiffness and weakness.
Syringomyelia can be caused by a number of different factors, however it is most commonly caused by the brain protruding into the spinal canal, this is known as Chiari malformation. Some of the other causes include spinal cord tumours, trauma and inflammation around the spinal cord.
If the Syringomyelia is not causing any symptoms it can be left and be carefully monitored. Symptoms will usually develop slowly over time as the cyst grows. Symptoms are most common in people between the ages of 25-40 and can affect the back, arms, shoulder and legs. This includes:
· Muscle weakness
· Loss of sensitivity to pain
· Loss of reflexes
· Stiffness and pain
· Scoliosis (spinal curvature)
If you have any of the signs and symptoms associated with syringomyelia it is important that you go and see your GP to make sure you get the right treatment.
If you have had a spinal cord injury in the past it is important that you still get your symptoms checked out as they can develop months or even years after the injury.
To diagnose a syringomyelia your doctor will go through your medical history and do a physical examination. It is quite common for them to be found incidentally when looking at something else.
If your doctor suspects that you may have syringomyelia they will send you to have some scans. This is most commonly a CT or MRI scan.
As mentioned before, many patients with syringomyelia do not require any treatment if they are not causing any symptoms. If they have started to develop symptoms, surgery may be required. The goal of the surgery is to remove the pressure that is on the spinal cord. This can either be done by draining or removing the cyst!
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.