You're likely to start by first seeing your family doctor. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to a neurologist — a doctor who specializes in nervous system disorders, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses, recent life changes, family history of syringomyelia and any past spinal or back surgeries or injuries you've had.
- Make a list of all medications that you're taking, as well as any vitamins or supplements.
- Take along any related medical information. If you have past medical reports, MRI scans or CT scans that might relate to your current problem, bring them to your appointment.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For syringomyelia some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- Are there other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- Is there a possibility my symptoms will get better on their own?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- Is my condition related to my diet or environment?
- What is the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- Can exercise help?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions that arise during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Be as specific as you can when answering. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing these symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
What you can do in the meantime
Avoid doing anything that seems to worsen your symptoms. For many people with syringomyelia, straining can trigger symptoms, so try to avoid activities that involve heavy lifting or straining. Also, avoid sharply flexing your neck.
Feb. 19, 2011
- Syringomyelia fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/syringomyelia/detail_syringomyelia.htm. Accessed Dec. 12, 2010.
- Hauser SL, et al. Diseases of the spinal cord. In: Fauci AS, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=2904462&searchStr=syringomyelia#2904462. Accessed Dec. 6, 2010.
- What is syringomyelia? American Syringomyelia & Chiari Alliance Project. http://www.asap.org/syringomyelia. Accessed Dec. 12, 2010.
- Chiari malformation and syringomyelia: A handbook for patients and their families. Chiari and Syringomyelia Foundation. http://www.csfinfo.org/chiari_syringomyelia_cm_sm_handbook. Accessed Dec. 10, 2010.
- Simon RP, et al. Disorders of somatic sensation. In: Aminoff MJ, et al. Clinical Neurology. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill; 2005. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=5149281&searchStr=syringomyelia. Accessed Dec. 9, 2010.
- Eisen A. Disorders affecting the spinal cord. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Dec. 6, 2010.
- Krauss WE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 17, 2010.