What Are the Symptoms of Syringomyelia?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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The symptoms of syringomyelia include headache, weakness or pain in the back, shoulders, arms or legs and inability to feel extremes of hot or cold. In addition to these potential symptoms, a person with syringomelia could also experience sweating problems, loss of sexual function and loss of bowel or bladder function. Stiffness of the limbs is another possible symptom of the condition. If a person is experiencing any combination of these symptoms, he should visit the doctor, because there is a chance he has syringomyelia.

A cyst that forms within the spinal cord is called a “syrinx,” and when this cyst grows it can disrupt some of the normal functioning of the spinal cord. The symptoms of syringomyelia are as a result of this disruption to the spinal cord and vital nerves caused by the syrinx. Syringomyelia is essentially a condition whereby a cyst growing in the spinal cord begins to disrupt the normal communication between the brain and the body. There are two different types of syringomyelia, communicating and non-communicating, communicating syringomyelia being more likely to show symptoms when the patient is between 25 and 40 years of age. Non-communicating syringomyelia can start at any time, but will usually do so after a trauma, hemorrhage or a tumor.


Whether a patient has communicating or non-communicating form of the condition can have an effect on the type of symptoms of syringomyelia experienced by the patient. Non-communicating syringomyelia will often present with pain, which is usually centered around the site of the original trauma or condition that caused the syringomyelia to develop. The communicating form of the condition can have any of the possible symptoms, but these may worsen if the person is straining or if he is performing any activity that causes a fluctuation in the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. Likewise, a person with the communicating form of the condition may not experience symptoms of syringomyelia for extended periods of time.

Identifying the symptoms of syringomyelia is vital, because many patients ignore the symptoms and the condition often goes undiagnosed. The blockage or damage in the spinal cord causes pain, weakness or stiffness in the back, shoulders, arms or legs because of the effect it can have on the nerves. Inability to feel hot and cold is another telltale symptom, and this may also be accompanied by fluctuations in body temperature. Suffers from syringomyelia also experience frequent headaches, and may have sweating problems. The condition may also affect sexual function and bladder control.


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