Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: November 14, 2019
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms somewhere in our body, and odds are you have a few non-symptomatic cysts in non-essential areas of your body. However, when these cysts form in delicate locations, they can cause problems for your health. When they develop within your spinal cord, this is a condition known as syringomyelia. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why these cysts develop in your spinal cord, and how they are treated by a specialist.
The Formation of Spinal Cord Cysts
Your brain and spinal cord are protected by cerebrospinal fluid, but this fluid also fills cavities within the center of the brain and a central canal that runs the length of your spinal cord. In a person with syringomyelia, this fluid actually collects within the tissue of the spinal cord. When this happens, a fluid filled cyst (called a syrinx) develops.
A syrinx’s reason for developing isn’t always known, but many times it can be traced back to a disturbance in the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid. The most common cause is due to another condition called a Chiari malformation, in which brain tissue near the base of your skull obstructs the normal flow of spinal fluid. However, the cysts can also form as a result of acute trauma to the spinal cord, because of inflammation in the area, or for reasons unknown.
Symptoms of the condition depend on a couple of factors, including the location and size of the syrinx. Symptoms tend to develop slowly over time, but not always. Common symptoms include:
- Localized pain
- Stiffness in the back and shoulders
- Arm weakness
- A numbing or tingling sensation
- Issues with bowel control, bladder control and sexual function
Diagnosing And Treating Spinal Cord Cysts
A magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI) is considered the most reliable way to uncover syringomyelia, as they can produce a clear picture of the growth. If the syrinx is found during imaging for an unrelated condition, all you may need is regular monitoring if it’s not producing symptoms.
For those individuals whose problems are being caused by the syrinx, surgery is typically the preferred treatment. The specific operation will depend on the root cause of the cerebrospinal fluid disruption, but regardless of surgery, there are typically two main goals when treating syringomyelia. The first is to restore normal cerebrospinal fluid flow, and the second is to drain the syrinx. When these two tasks are successfully achieved, the normal flow of spinal fluid helps to prevent a recurrence of cyst development. Some patients may need to have a stent or shunt inserted to help drain the syrinx.
When surgery is performed by a skilled spinal surgeon like Dr. Sinicropi, results tend to be fantastic. So if you are suffering from the symptoms listed above, or you just want to get to the bottom of your spine pain, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.