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An Overview of Syringomyelia and Treatment Options

Syringomyelia and Treatment Options

Syringomyelia is a chronic condition in which a fluid filled develops within the spinal cord. The sac grows larger over time and causes compression and damage to the spinal cord. The condition often begins in the neck but can occur along any section of the spinal cord.  Syringomyelia is rare and is found most frequently in individuals age 20-40. The primary cause of Syringomyelia is unknown, and the ailment can progress slowly or quickly.

Conditions that can contribute to the development of Syringomyelia include:

  • Disruption of Cerebrospinal Fluid flow
  • Birth defects
  • Chiari 1 Malformation (brain tissue bulging into the spinal canal)
  • Hemorrhage
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Spinal cord tumor
  • Spinal cord inflammation (such as meningitis)

Syringomyelia can produce a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Pain that feels like burning, piercing, or tingling
  • Loss of sensation in the upper chest, back, shoulders, arms, and hands
  • Muscle weakness, stiffness, and wasting in the legs, shoulders, arms, and hands
  • Skin rash
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Muscle contractions and spasticity causing coordination problems and difficulty walking
  • Abnormal spinal curvature
  • Excessive sweating
  • Uncontrolled blood pressure
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

Symptoms can vary between individuals, depending on the condition’s severity. A physician should be contacted as soon as signs or symptoms appear.

A physician will conduct a detailed patient history, along with a physical and neurological exam to determine the presence of Syringomyelia. Particular attention is given to the individual’s patterns of movement. A CT scan and MRI are used to help verify the diagnosis.

Treatment is dependent on the symptoms and severity of Syringomyelia, as there is no standard procedure.  If there are no symptoms noted, the individual will be monitored and advised to avoid activities that could cause neck or back strain.  Draining the sac or having it removed surgically is recommended for people experiencing symptoms to limit damage and prevent disability. Physical therapy is beneficial to help rebuild lost strength and flexibility. Unfortunately, Syringomyelia can recur after successful treatment.

If you suffer from a rare spinal problem and would like to find if we offer treatment options that would be beneficial, please call us at either our New Braunfels or Seguin offices.

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