1 What is Syringomyelia?

Syringomyelia is development of fluid filled cyst inside spinal cord. Over time cyst might enlarge damage spinal cord causing pain and stiffness.

Syringomyelia has many different causes, most of the cases syringomyelia is associated with chiari malformation (brain tissue protruding into spinal cord). Other causes include spinal cord tumors, spinal cord injuries and damage caused by inflammation of spinal cord.

Syringomyelia isn't causing problems. If symptoms are troubling patient surgery might be an option.

2 Symptoms

Symptoms of syringomyelia develop slowly overtime. If syringomyelia is caused by protrusion of brain into spinal cord symptoms usually appear at ages of 25- 40 years.

In few cases coughing or straining may trigger the symptoms of syringomyelia, although neither causes syringomyelia. Following are early signs and symptoms of syringomyelia:

  • muscle weakness and atrophy,
  • loss of reflexes,
  • loss of sensitivity to pain and temperature.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • stiffness in back, shoulders, arms and legs,
  • pain in back, neck ,and arms,
  • facial pain or numbness,
  • spinal curvature(scoliosis).

3 Causes

Several conditions and diseases can cause syringomyella, which include:

4 Making a Diagnosis

Doctor will start diagnosis of syringomyelia by asking history of disease and complete physical examination.

If doctor suspects syringomyelia some of the following diagnostic procedures can be recommended:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)- An MRI of spinal cord is the most reliable tool for diagnosing syringomyelia. MRI uses electromagnetic waves to depict the electrical activity and image of spinal cord.
  • In some cases, dyes are injected which can identify any anomalies in blood vessels and identify tumors.
  • Computerized tomography (CT)- CT scan uses a series of x-rays to create a detailed view of spine and spinal cord.

5 Treatment

Treatment of syringomyelia depends on the severity and progression of signs and symptoms. Monitoring in mild cases of syringomyelia is required with regular MRI scans.

Treatment methods include:

  • Surgery- in severe cases surgery is the only option left to cure syringolyelia symptoms. The goal of treatment is to reduce pressure caused by fluid filled cyst and restore blood circulation. Several types of surgery options are there to reduce pressure.
  • Treating chiari malformation- If syringomyelia is caused by chiari malformation. Doctor may recommend surgery that involves opening of base of skull and expanding covering of brain. This surgery can reduce pressure and restore circulation and normal function of spinal cord.
  • Draining- doctor will insert draining system called shunt. One end of the tube is placed in syrinx and other end is placed in abdomen.
  • Removing the obstruction- if something within spinal cord such as tumor or a bony growth. Removing the obstruction will reduce the pressure.

6 Prevention

No known preventive measures exist for syringomyelia.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with syringomyelia.

Syringomyelia and its complications may make life extremely difficult. It makes people anxious and depressed and it affects social relationships and overall quality of life. Doing following things may help:

  • Talking to someone, considering counselling visiting people with similar condition.
  • Joining support groups.

8 Risks and Complications

Some of the complications caused by syringomyelia are as follows:

  • Scoliosis- an abnormal curvature of spine.
  • Chronic pain- damage to spinal cord can cause severe chronic pain.
  • Motor difficulties- weakness and stiffness of muscles in legs and arms.

9 Related Clinical Trials