Syringomyelia: symptoms, causes and treatment

There are many conditions or disorders related to abnormalities in the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and the appearance of cysts or malformations of the spinal cord. In addition, in many cases, these are asymptomatic and imperceptible, which means that they follow their development without the person coming to perceive it.

One of these disorders that affects the spinal cord is syringomyelia, A disorder which, although in its early stages shows no clinical picture, can lead to major motor and sensory complications.

    What is syringomyelia

    The disease known as syringomyelia is an organic disease that causes a cyst to appear inside the spinal cord. This bulge which is filled with an aqueous fluid is known as a syringe.

    This disease develops gradually, so the size of the syringe gradually increases, expanding into the spinal cord and causing severe damage to the center of it. Because the spinal cord is connected to the nerves that control the limbs, syringomyelia tends to cause pain, weakness, and stiffness in the limbs, back, and shoulders.

    In addition, people who suffer from it also often suffer from other symptoms such as severe headaches or sensory symptoms such as alterations in thermal perception. However, the symptoms can be very varied and affect patients in many ways, even without causing symptoms.

    The germ or the reason why this type of cyst appears is related to several factors. The most common is the appearance of an anomaly known as Chiari malformation, a defect that causes brain tissue to exit into the spinal canal. Also, other causes of syringomyelia can be the appearance of tumor masses in the spinal cord, or injury or inflammation of the spinal cord.

    As for the incidence of syringomyelia, traditionally it has been quite difficult to calculate because it shares a multitude of symptoms with other diseases, which makes diagnosis difficult. However, with the advancement of diagnostic tests using neuroimaging, its detection has been improved.

      What are the symptoms?

      As mentioned in the previous point, syringomyelia is a progressive disease in which symptoms tend to appear once adulthood begins. In cases where this is due to a Chiari malformation, these they start to appear between the ages of 25 and 40.

      At other times, symptoms may appear abruptly or suddenly when the patient experiences severe coughing fits or after intense physical exertion. However, this does not mean that these are the causes of the disease.

      The clinical picture of syringomyelia it mainly affects the neck, shoulders, arms and handsBut over time, it eventually spreads affecting the lower extremities as well.

      Between the main symptoms of syringomyelia include:

      • Muscle atrophy characterized by weakness and deterioration of muscles.
      • Diminished and lost reflexes.
      • Altered sensitivity to pain and temperature.
      • Stiff neck and limbs.
      • Sensation of pain due to stiffness.
      • muscle spasms in the lower limbs.
      • Impaired gastrointestinal function.
      • Spine disorders such as scoliosis.

      Although in many cases it does not cause any symptoms, due to its gradual progression, syringomyelia it can become a disease with very serious health complications of the person. These complications have their origin in a proliferation of the syringe.

      This growth tends to injure certain groups of nerves in the spinal cord, causing the following symptoms:

      • Serious motor problems legs interfering with the ability to walk
      • Chronic and severe pain
      • scoliosis or pathological curvature of the spine.

      What are the causes?

      Although syringomyelia can be caused by traumatic, infectious, or tumor agents, the truth is that in most cases it is practically impossible to determine the specific origin of this disease.

      When this disorder is caused by another disease or condition, the injuries they cause can interfere with the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. As a result, it travels to the spinal cord forming the aforementioned syringe.

      Diseases that can cause this type of cyst include:

      • Tumor masses or formations in the spinal cord.
      • Meningitis or inflammation of the brain membranes and spinal cord.

      • Chiari malformation.
      • Spinal cord injuries.
      • Spine alterations present at birth.

      How to diagnose it?

      Since syringomyelia does not show any symptoms in its early stages, it is very likely that it is caught accidentally when the person is assessed for another disease.

      However, since the symptoms coincide with those of many other conditions of a similar nature, the doctor performs a thorough evaluation which allows him to rule out other diseases.

      A good diagnosis of syringomyelia involves the professional carry out a complete and detailed medical history, accompanied by a physical examination. For this, magnetic resonance imaging of the spine and spinal cord can be used, as well as scanning using computed tomography which provides a detailed image of the affected area.

      Is there a treatment?

      The intervention guidelines for the treatment of syringomyelia depend on both the severity of the symptoms and the condition or disease causing them.

      In cases where it is not related to any other disease and, in addition, the patient does not have any serious signs or symptoms, it will only be necessary to perform periodic checks by means of resonances and neurological evaluations.

      However, when syringomyelia causes severe discomfort or interference with the daily life of the patient, surgery is recommended. By means of a small surgical interventionThe pressure exerted by the cyst on the spinal cord decreases, which lessens the severity of symptoms.

      The type of intervention may depend on the main cause of cyst formation, so it can range from draining the cyst, removing the tumor mass that forms the obstruction, or correcting and treating the abnormality. which forms syringomyelia.

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