Specific syringomyelia causes are still unknown, but research scientists are getting closer to understanding what they might be. Research has shown that an obstruction in the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid causes it to flow into the center of the spinal cord -- ultimately leading to an increase in pressure, which can lead to cyst formation. Medical conditions that may be linked to syringomyelia include Chiari type I malformation, meningitis, tumors, or other conditions.
The precise cause or causes of syringomyelia are still unknown. However, syringomyelia research scientists are getting closer to understanding the possible causes of this condition.
A watery, protective substance known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) normally flows around the spinal cord and brain, transporting nutrients and waste products. It also serves to cushion the brain. In early development, CSF also fills a small canal through the center of the spinal cord -- the central canal -- which then collapses normally over time.
A number of medical conditions can cause an obstruction in the normal flow of CSF, redirecting it into the central canal, and ultimately into the spinal cord itself. For reasons that are only now becoming clear, this redirected CSF fills the expanding central canal and results in syrinx formation (a syrinx is a kind of cyst). Pressure differences along the spine cause the fluid to move within the cyst.
Research scientists believe that it is possible that this continual movement of fluid builds up pressure in and around the spinal cord, and results in cyst growth and further damage to the spinal cord tissue.
The medical conditions that can increase the risk of syringomyelia developing include:
- Chiari type I malformation
Chiari Type I Malformation
In most cases, syringomyelia is related to a congenital abnormality of the brain called a Chiari type I malformation. This malformation occurs during the development of the fetus and causes the lower part of the cerebellum to protrude from its normal location in the back of the head into the cervical, or neck, portion of the spinal canal.