Syringomyelia is a very rare condition that consists of a fluid filled sac, typically filled with cerebrospinal fluid, located within the spinal cord itself. You can think of cerebrospinal fluid as the cushion that your brain has so that it does not bang against the inside of the skull. The fluid helps to suspend the central nervous system, is made by the ventricles within the brain, and is absorbed back into the body. So the cerebrospinal fluid is constantly circulating throughout the central nervous system, bringing nutrients, immune cells, and oxygen, and removing wastes from our most delicate organ, the brain.
This condition is one that hits close to home, in the fact that I manage a patient at the teaching clinic who has developed this condition, after having spinal meningitis. It can also occur from central nervous system trauma, spinal neoplasms, inflammation (particularly of the brain), or some type of neurological infection. Syringomyelia also occurs most often within the setting of an Arnold Chiari Malformation Type I. Whoa, whoa, whoa. What is that?
In general, there are four types of Chiari malformations, types I-IV, which can refer to structural problems between the cerebellum, brainstem, upper cervical cord, and cranial base. To put it simply, Type I, is a common adult malformation of the brain, which can push the mid-or-hind brain through the foramen magnum, which can reduce ability of the cerebral spinal fluid to be pushed back into the cranium, resulting in increased pressure, and possible cause of cyst formation. Types II – IV can be more common in children.
Some signs and symptoms of Syringomyelia may include:
> Numbness and weakness of the upper and/or lower extremity
> Motor function loss of the upper and/or lower extremity
> Muscle contraction or spasms
> Uncoordinated gait
> Extreme pain
Overall, syringomyelia is a serious condition that should be managed by a licensed medical professional. Please consult a doctor in your area for appropriate diagnosis and treatment of this disease.