Symptoms usually begin in young adulthood. The symptoms tend to develop slowly, although sudden onset may occur with coughing or straining.
When the spinal cord is damaged, symptoms can include:
- Chronic severe pain, weakness, and stiffness in the back, shoulders, arms, or legs
- Loss of ability to feel extremes of hot or cold, especially in the hands
- Loss of bowel or bladder function
- Sweating problems
- Loss of sexual function.
However, these possible syringomyelia symptoms are not sure signs of syringomyelia. Other problems can also cause these symptoms. Anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible.
(For a more in-depth look at this topic, click Syringomyelia Symptoms.)
Diagnosing syringomyelia in the past had been difficult, because other conditions share similar symptoms. But the widespread availability of an outpatient imaging procedure called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has significantly increased the number of cases diagnosed in the beginning stages of the disorder.
Other tests that may be used to make a diagnosis include:
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Lumbar puncture
- Computed tomography (CT scan)
(Click Diagnosing Syringomyelia for more detailed information.)