Syringomyelia symptoms usually develop slowly over time. If your syringomyelia is caused by protrusion of brain tissue into your spinal canal (Chiari malformation), symptoms generally may begin between ages 25 and 40.
In some cases, coughing or straining may trigger symptoms of syringomyelia, although neither causes syringomyelia.
The following early signs and symptoms of syringomyelia may affect the back of your neck, shoulders, arms and hands first:
- Muscle weakness and wasting (atrophy)
- Loss of reflexes
- Loss of sensitivity to pain and temperature
Other signs and symptoms of syringomyelia may include:
- Stiffness in your back, shoulders, arms and legs
- Pain in your neck, arms and back
- Bowel and bladder function problems
- Muscle weakness and spasms in your legs
- Facial pain or numbness
- Spinal curvature (scoliosis)
When to see a doctor
If you have any of the signs or symptoms associated with syringomyelia, see your doctor. Because many signs and symptoms of syringomyelia can be associated with other disorders, a thorough medical evaluation is important for accurate diagnosis.
If you've experienced a spinal cord injury, watch carefully for signs and symptoms of syringomyelia. Many months to several years may pass after an injury before syringomyelia develops. If you have symptoms, when you go for an evaluation make sure your doctor knows you had a spinal cord injury.
March 25, 2014
- Syringomyelia fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/syringomyelia/detail_syringomyelia.htm. Accessed Sept. 17, 2013.
- Papadakis MA, et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2013. 52nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=13162&searchStr=syringomyelia. Accessed Sept. 17, 2013.
- Eisen A. Disorders affecting the spinal cord. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 17, 2013.
- Sekula RF, et al. The pathogenesis of Chiari I malformation and syringomyelia. Neurological Research. 2011;33:232.
- NINDS meningitis and encephalitis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/encephalitis_meningitis/encephalitis_meningitis.htm.Accessed Sept. 18, 2013.
- Brett-Fleegler M. Evaluation of neck stiffness in children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 18, 2013.
- Abrams GM, et al. Chronic complications of spinal cord injury. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 18, 2013.
- Muthusamy P, et al. Syringomyelia. First Consult. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 17, 2013.
- Noseworthy JH. Neurological Therapeutics: Principles and Practice. London, U.K.: Martin Dunitz; 2003:2520.
- Support & resources: Find support. American Syringomyelia and Chiari Alliance Project. http://asap.org/index.php/resources/find-support/. Accessed Sept. 19, 2013.
- Support groups. American Chronic Pain Association. http://www.theacpa.org/Support-Groups. Accessed Sept. 19, 2013.
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