Syringomyelia is a disorder in which a fluid-filled cysts forms within the spinal cord. Over time, the cyst may expand and enlarge, resulting in damage to the spinal cord as well as pain, weakness and stiffness in the back, shoulders and extremities. Headaches, a loss of ability to feel hot or cold, as well as loss of bladder and other functions also may result. Symptoms often vary depending on the particular location of the cyst on the spinal cord.
Syringomyelia can be caused by a number of medical conditions but most commonly results from an abnormality of the brain known as Chiari I malformation, which causes brain tissue to protrude into the spinal canal. Other causes of the disorder include spinal cord tumors, spinal cord injuries, trauma, meningitis or arachnoiditis (inflammation of the spinal cord membrane).
Surgery is often recommended for patients experiencing symptoms associated with syringomyelia and often involves removing or draining the cyst to remove pressure on the spinal cord and restore normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid. Surgery can vary depending on the underlying cause and location of syringomyelia.