What is syringomyelia and how is it treated?
Syringomyelia (Greek surinx siringos tube) is a chronic disease of the nervous system in which cavities form in the spinal cord and medulla oblongata. Usually, cavities arise due to the expansion of the central canal - a longitudinal canal that runs in the spinal cord throughout its entire length and is filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
Short information about syringomyelia
Signs of the disease
The disease begins imperceptibly. Its earliest symptoms are a decrease in body weight, weakness in the hand muscles, a decrease in pain and temperature sensitivity in the hands. During this period, individuals with the disease often cut and burn themselves because they cannot withdraw their hand in time. After some time, the violation of sensitivity spreads to other parts of the body. Often areas of sensitivity in the form of spots, stripes, "collar", "half-jacket" or "jacket" alternate with areas of normal skin. A symptom of the disease can be acute burning or shooting pain and any part of the body can hurt.
The next stage of syringomyelia is severe muscle weakness, a decrease in their tone and volume. It becomes difficult for a person to move. First, paresis of the hands develops, and then of the legs. At the same time, sweating decreases or disappears altogether. Although sometimes it happens the other way around - profuse sweat after eating spicy or hot food.
The skin of a person suffering from syringomyelia is cyanotic; abscesses and boils are often formed, and panaritiums (purulent inflammation around the nail) on the fingers occur. But the patient does not experience pain, since the sensitivity is impaired.
The pupil of a person suffering from syringomyelia is narrowed, the upper eyelid is lowered, and these symptoms are present only in one eye. This is a manifestation of Horner's symptom, which occurs due to paralysis of the cervical spinal cord.
A person suffering from syringomyelia also has problems with bones - calcium is gradually washed out of them, they become fragile and break easily. And since the sensitivity of such people is reduced, they hardly feel pain with fractures. In addition, the spine is often curved in those suffering from this disease.
Syringomyelia is a rather rare pathology. It affects only 7-9 people per 100,000 population. In men, it is registered more often than in women. On average, it appears at the age of 30.
As we said, syringomyelia occurs due to the expansion of the spinal canal. And this happens when the cerebrospinal fluid, bumping into some obstacles, bends around them, and under pressure, cavities are gradually formed. At the same time, glia grows in the spinal cord - auxiliary cells of the nervous tissue, which themselves do not transmit impulses. Because of all this, the transmission of impulses from the brain to organs and from organs to the brain is disrupted.
This disease can be congenital and acquired. Congenital syringomyelia occurs as a result of abnormal development of the embryo - the spinal cord is incorrectly laid, while mainly its gray matter suffers. The cause of the disease may also be a congenital pathology in the development of some brain structures (Arnold-Chiari malformation, Dandy-Walker syndrome). In this case, most of the cavities are formed in the lower neck and upper chest spinal cord. In the thoracic region, they are rarely formed, and in the lumbosacral, they are very rare.
Acquired syringomyelia occurs as a result of spinal cord trauma.
The diagnosis of the disease is made by a neurologist. To do this, he or she needs the results of computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spine.
It is needed to differentiate syringomyelia from meningitis, a tumor of the spinal cord, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Syringomyelia cannot be cured. You can only stop its development and remove manifestations.
X-ray therapy (a type of radiation therapy in which an organ or a limited area of the body is irradiated with X-rays) has a good effect in the therapy of syringomyelia. The patient's pains decrease and sometimes disappear, the area of insensitive skin decreases, and discomfort in the hands (goose bumps) disappears. This is because X-rays delay the progression of the disease. However, such treatment does not help every patient - in the later stages it is useless.
Proserin therapy also has a good effect. The medication improves the transmission of impulses between cells and thus gives a lasting improvement in the condition. But this is symptomatic therapy, the cause of the disease, that is, Proserin does not affect the development of cavities in the spinal cord. This treatment is also most effective in the early stages of the disease.
Radioactive phosphorus and radioactive iodine are also used for the disease. They accumulate in the body and delay the pathological growth of glia.
For the reduction of pain syndrome, painkillers and muscle relaxers such as Tizanidine are prescribed.
Also, those suffering from syringomyelia are recommended balneotherapy (radon baths) and spa treatment.
In general, the prognosis for life with syringomyelia is favorable. If you start treatment on time, you can live a long time. But for this you need to eat right. You need to eat more vitamin A, it is found in carrots, cabbage, beets, spinach. Fermented milk products are very useful in this disease - they help to compensate the calcium deficiency.
It must be remembered that temperature sensitivity is impaired in those suffering from syringomyelia. This means that they can easily suffer from both frost and burns. You need to keep an eye on them. And the sufferers themselves must dress for the weather, do not come close to the fire, and do not touch surfaces that may be hot.
Despite the fact that the prognosis for the life of patients is favorable, they need to choose a place of work with an eye on their disease. That is, these people cannot work where physical strength is required, where you need to stand for a long time, where you need to walk a lot, where there is a real danger of getting an arm or leg broken, as well as in hot workshops and where there is a danger of getting burned.
Prevention of congenital syringomyelia consists in the timely diagnosis of this disease.
For the prevention of acquired syringomyelia, it is necessary to prevent spinal injuries, and if they could not be prevented, then they must be treated correctly, carefully following the instructions of the doctor.
Post by: Samuel Wrangler, M.D., Montgomery, Alabama