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Syringomyelia is a disorder in which a cyst, called a syrinx, forms within the spinal cord. This cyst expands and elongates over time, destroying the center of the spinal cord which can result in pain, weakness, stiffness in the back, shoulders, arms, or legs, headaches, and insensitivity to temperature (especially in the hands). Symptoms vary from person to person. Syringomyelia is often related to a congenital abnormality of the brain called a Chiari I malformation, but may also occur as a complication of trauma, meningitis, hemorrhage, a tumor, or arachnoiditis. Symptoms may appear months or even years after the initial injury. Some cases of syringomyelia are familial, although this is rare. Treatment often involves surgery and avoiding activities that involve straining. Drainage of the cysts using a catheter, drainage tubes, and valves may be required in some patients. If not treated, the disorder can lead to progressive weakness in the arms and legs, loss of hand sensation, and chronic, severe pain.
Last updated: 5/1/2009
- NINDS Syringomyelia Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). April 28, 2015; http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/syringomyelia/syringomyelia.htm. Accessed 6/9/2015.
- MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.
- The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) collects and disseminates research information related to neurological disorders. Click on the link to view information on this topic.
- The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) has a report for patients and families about this condition. NORD is a patient advocacy organization for individuals with rare diseases and the organizations that serve them.
- Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
- The Monarch Initiative brings together data about this condition from humans and other species to help physicians and biomedical researchers. Monarch’s tools are designed to make it easier to compare the signs and symptoms (phenotypes) of different diseases and discover common features. This initiative is a collaboration between several academic institutions across the world and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Visit the website to explore the biology of this condition.
- Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. Each entry has a summary of related medical articles. It is meant for health care professionals and researchers. OMIM is maintained by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
- Orphanet is a European reference portal for information on rare diseases and orphan drugs. Access to this database is free of charge.
- PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Syringomyelia. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.