Alternative Names: Syrinx Syringomyelia is damage to the spinal cord due to the formation of a fluid-filled area within the cord.
* Gradual loss of muscle mass (wasting, atrophy) * Headache * Muscle function loss, loss of ability to use arms or legs * Numbness or decreased sensation - Decreased sense of pain or temperature - Lessened ability to sense that the skin is being touched - Neck, shoulders, upper arms, trunk -- in a cape-like pattern - Slowly, but progressively, gets worse * Pain down the arms, neck, or into the upper back * Weakness (decreased muscle strength, independent of exercise) in the arms or legs Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease: * Muscle contractions * Rashes * Spasms in or tightness of the leg muscles * Uncoordinated movement
The fluid build-up seen in syringomyelia may be a result of spinal cord trauma, tumors of the spinal cord, or birth defects (specifically, "chiari malformation," in which part of the brain pushes down onto the spinal cord at the base of the skull). The fluid-filled cavity usually begins in the neck area. It expands slowly, putting pressure on the spinal cord and slowly causing damage.
There is no known prevention, other than avoiding trauma to the spinal cord. Prompt treatment reduces progression of the disorder.
A neurologic examination may show loss of sensation or movement caused by compression of the spinal cord.
Untreated, the disorder gets worse very slowly, but it eventually causes severe disability. Surgical decompression usually stops the progression of the disorder, with about 50% of people showing significant improvement in neurologic function after surgical decompression.
The goals of treatment are to stop the spinal cord damage from getting worse and to maximize functioning. Surgery to relieve pressure in the spinal cord may be appropriate. Physical therapy may be needed to maximize muscular function.
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of syringomyelia.