Syringomyelia causes, symptoms, complications and treatment in the best hospitals in the world

Syringomyelia Causes

Syringomyelia is a chronic condition that causes fluid-filled cysts, called “syrinx”, to form within the spinal cord. This condition is also known as hydromyelia, syringohydromyelia, and Morvan disease.

This condition occurs when something obstructs the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which protects the brain and spinal cord. It enters the central canal of the spinal cord and may result in the formation of a cyst.

This fluid can become blocked or rerouted in syringomyelia for two primary reasons: a birth defect or trauma.

Congenital syringomyelia, also known as communicating syringomyelia, typically occurs when there is an issue with the development of the baby’s brain during pregnancy. A defect known as “Chiari I malformation” causes the lower portion of the infant’s brain to protrude into the spinal canal. This impedes the normal flow of fluid between the spine and the brain, resulting in the formation of a cyst. However, not all individuals with Chiari I malformation develop this disorder. Typically, symptoms appear between the ages of 25 and 40.

Acquired syringomyelia, also known as primary spinal or noncommunicating syringomyelia, is the formation of a cyst in a portion of the spinal cord that has been damaged. It could occur when there is:

  • Membrane enlargement of the spinal cord
  • Meningitis
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Spinal tumor
  • Connected spinal cord

Sometimes the disease occurs for reasons that doctors cannot explain. This condition is known as idiopathic syringomyelia.

Syringomyelia Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the cyst’s location and size. If it grows larger and longer over time, it can damage the nerves in the spinal cord’s center. This can result in chronic pain that is difficult to treat.

Typically, symptoms develop gradually over many years. However, they can appear suddenly following an accident, such as a fall.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • Spinal curvature, termed scoliosis
  • Alterations in or loss of bowel and bladder function
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Lack of temperature sensation in the fingers, hands, arms, and upper chest.
  • Absence of reflexes
  • Muscle stiffness that may make walking difficult.
  • Muscular weakness, particularly in the arms, hands, and shoulders.
  • Sensing numbness, tingling, burning, or penetrating pain in the neck, shoulders, and occasionally arms and hands.
  • Paralysis (in severe cases)
  • Headaches
  • Sexual problems
  • Swings in blood pressure levels
  • Involuntary muscle contractions, or twitches
  • Uncoordinated actions

Syringomyelia Complications

If the cyst damages a nerve responsible for controlling the muscles in your eyes and face, you may develop Horner syndrome. On the affected side of the face, it causes drooping eyelids, a narrowing of the space between the eyelids, smaller pupils, and decreased sweating.

Syringomyelia Diagnosis

MRI scans of the brain and spine are utilized by physicians to diagnose syringomyelia.

Occasionally, this condition is discovered during an MRI performed for another reason.

A CT scan, a type of X-ray imaging, may also be performed on your spine to diagnose syringomyelia.

Syringomyelia Treatment

The type of treatment for syringomyelia depends on the presence of symptoms and the severity of those symptoms.

If you do not have symptoms or if they are mild, you will most likely not require treatment. However, you should have routine checkups to monitor for cyst growth and changes in symptoms. The physician may advise you to avoid straining activities such as heavy lifting. In addition, they may prescribe pain medication or suggest physical therapy.

If your symptoms cause problems, you may require surgery to restore normal cerebrospinal fluid flow. The type of surgery you will undergo will depend on the underlying cause of your syringomyelia. If the issue is caused by a Chiari I malformation, for instance, your doctor may perform posterior fossa decompression. The bone at the back of your skull and spine will be removed, creating more space for the brainstem and cerebellum, which control movement and balance.