Treatment largely depends on the severity of syringomyelia and the progression of symptoms, as well as whether the condition is the result of an underlying medical condition such as a tumor.
In people who do not have any symptoms, a neurosurgeon or neurologist may monitor disease progression to see whether symptoms worsen over time. Regular monitoring is essential for making sure treatment is timely.
What is syringomyelia?
Syringomyelia, also called hydromyelia or syringohydromyelia, is a condition where there is the formation of a fluid-filled sac or cyst within the spinal cord. This cyst is called syrinx and can grow with time, causing increased pressure on the spinal cord. If not treated, the syrinx can cause considerable nerve damage.
Syrinxes can form anywhere along the length of the spinal cord, causing symptoms that vary depending on its size and location. Syringomyelia is generally seen in individuals aged 25 to 40 years old and affects more males than females.
What causes syringomyelia?
In some people, there may be no identifiable cause of syringomyelia (idiopathic). However, syringomyelia may be caused by:
What are the symptoms of syringomyelia?
Symptoms of syringomyelia depend on the size and location of the syrinx. Some people may not have any symptoms. When caused by congenital conditions, symptoms may not appear until the person is 25 to 40 years old. Following an injury, symptoms may take at least 2-3 months to appear.
Symptoms of syringomyelia include:
- Pain typically in the midline over the spine (trunk), shoulders, neck, and upper arms
- Sideways curvature of the spine (scoliosis)
- Weakness and wasting (shrinking) of muscles in the arms and legs
- Muscle spasms (tightness) in the legs, arms. or hands
- Numbness in the arms and hands
- Difficulty walking (toe walking may be seen in children)
- Total or partial loss of bowel and bladder control
- Sexual dysfunction
- Uncontrolled eye movements (nystagmus)
- Syncope (fainting)
- Drooping of one eyelid (ptosis)
- Trouble swallowing
What types of surgeries can treat syringomyelia?
In individuals who need surgery, intervention mainly focuses on restoring the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) or draining the fluid from the syrinx. Depending on what is causing symptoms, types of surgery include:
- Treating Chiari malformation: Chiari malformation is a developmental condition in which there is an abnormality in the manner the parts of the brain are shaped and positioned in the skull. This may lead to displacement (herniation) of parts of the brain through the opening at the base of the skull into the spinal canal. Surgery for Chiari malformation (suboccipital decompression) helps create more room for the brain, thereby reducing pressure on the brain. It helps attain normal CSF flow and may correct or improve syringomyelia.
- Relieving obstruction: Surgery may be done to remove the obstruction to the CSF flow caused by conditions, such as a tumor, abnormal bone growth, or scar tissue. For tumors, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may also be used to reduce their size.
- Draining the syrinx: Fluid collected in the syrinx may be drained through a shunt or stent surgery. These surgeries help relieve compression over the spinal cord by providing alternative pathways for drainage of the collected fluid.
- Treating a tethered spinal cord: Normally, the spinal cord floats in the spinal canal without any attachment. A tethered spinal cord occurs when the spinal cord is fixed or attached anywhere within the spinal canal. A surgery called laminectomy may be done to free the spinal cord and restore normal CSF flow.
- Preventing trauma-related syrinx formation or progression: For people who sustained an injury (trauma) to the spinal cord, preventive procedures (such as expansive duraplasty) may be needed to stop the development or progression of a syrinx.
Other supportive measures, such as avoiding straining (such as while jumping, pushing, or lifting heavy objects) and rehabilitative care may also be needed. Rehabilitation (particularly neurorehabilitation) helps preserve neurological functions and prevents complications in bedridden patients, such as infection and pressure sores (decubitus ulcers).
Latest Neurology News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
National Institutes of Health. Syringomyelia Fact Sheet. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Syringomyelia-Fact-Sheet
Top How Is Syringomyelia Treated Related Articles
Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults (Symptoms, Signs, Causes, Treatment Options, Life Expectancy)Brain and spinal tumor are diseases in which cancer (malignant) cells begin to grow in the tissues of the brain. Tumors that start in the brain are called primary brain tumors. Tumors that start in the brain and spread to other organs are called primary brain tumors. Symptoms may include headaches, personality changes, dizziness, and trouble walking. Treatment depends upon the type and grade of tumor.
Can Spinal Tumors Affect the Brain?Brain and spinal cord form the central nervous system or CNS. These tumors arise within the skull or the spinal canal (the column that encloses the spinal cord). A spinal tumor is also called an intradural tumor and is an uncontrolled growth of cells developing within the spinal canal or the bones of the spine.
CystCysts are sac-like structures that may be filled with gas, liquid, or solid materials. Cysts may produce symptoms and signs depending on their location. Treatment of a cyst depends upon what caused the cyst in the first place.
How Does Scoliosis Affect the Body?What is scoliosis? Learn the causes and symptoms of scoliosis, how it affects the spine, and how it is treated.
Is Having a Chiari Malformation Life-Threatening?Chiari malformation is a condition in which the lower part of the brain pushes down into the spinal canal. It is a relatively rare disorder of the brain and spinal canal that can sometimes cause serious complications.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, as well as other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. The 16 characteristic early RA signs and symptoms include the following.
- Both sides of the body affected (symmetric)
- Joint deformity
- Joint pain
- Joint redness
- Joint stiffness
- Joint swelling
- Joint tenderness
- Joint warmth
- Loss of joint function
- Loss of joint range of motion
- Many joints affected (polyarthritis)
Spinal Cord Injury: Treatments and RehabilitationWhen vertebrae are broken or dislocated, the result can cause traumatic injury to the spinal cord. A spinal cord injury can have significant physiological consequences. One indication of the severity of a spinal cord injury are respiratory complications. Spinal cord injuries are classified as either. Rehabilitation and recovery of a spinal cord injury is dependant upon the type of injury.
Causes, Symptoms, Treatment for Spinal StenosisSpinal stenosis causes back pain, leg pain, difficulty walking and clumsiness. Learn the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis and cervical spinal stenosis and what surgeries are used for spinal stenosis treatment. Discover tips for relieving spinal stenosis pain without surgery, as well as useful medications.