Common symptoms of syringomyelia include headaches; severe pain in the arms and legs, shoulders, and back; and loss of sexual function. In many cases, symptoms begin in young adulthood, and they tend to develop slowly (although they may suddenly appear during coughing or straining).
Syringomyelia is a disorder in which a cyst forms within the spinal cord. This cyst, called a syrinx, expands and elongates over time, destroying a portion of the spinal cord from its center and expanding outward. When a syrinx widens enough to affect nerve fibers that carry information from the brain to the extremities, damage to the spinal cord results and a person develops syringomyelia symptoms.
Syringomyelia symptoms usually begin in young adulthood. They tend to develop slowly, although sudden onset may occur with coughing or straining.
When the spinal cord is damaged, symptoms of syringomyelia 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.
The symptoms described above account for the most typical ways in which syringomyelia symptoms occur; however, each patient experiences a different combination of symptoms, depending on where in the spinal cord the syrinx forms and how far it expands.
Also, these symptoms are not sure signs of syringomyelia. Other problems can also cause these symptoms. Anyone with possible symptoms of syringomyelia should see a doctor so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible.