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A syrinx is a cyst inside the spinal cord that is associated with syringomyelia and syringobulbia. Syrinx is made from cerebrospinal fluid that is restricted and accumulates within the spinal cord. Patients with a syrinx usually have both syringomyelia and syringobulbia, but syringomyelia usually occurs first. Our neurospine surgeons at DOCS Health offer syrinx treatment and surgery at our spinal medical center in Los Angeles.

Syringomyelia is a spinal disorder that occurs when a syrinx is in the spinal cord, while syringobulbia extends into the brain stem. Syrinx often occur in patients with a Chiari malformation, but there are other medical conditions that can cause these cerebrospinal fluid cysts. Spinal cord trauma, meningitis, tumors and hemorrhages can also cause a syrinx to occur.

Symptoms of Syringomyelia

When there is a syrinx in the spinal cord, there may or not be symptoms. If the cyst begins putting pressure on the spinal cord, syringomyelia may become symptomatic. Symptoms of syringomyelia include:

  • Increasing weakness in arms or legs
  • Bowel and bladder incontinence
  • Headaches
  • Stiffness in neck, back, arms and legs
  • Reduced sensitivity to cold or heat
  • Impaired reflexes

If syringobulbia is present and the syrinx is affecting the brain stem, other symptoms may occur. These can include dizziness, gait instability, tinnitus, speech problems and rapid eye movement. Symptoms can begin slowly and become worse over time.

Syrinxes are rare, only occurring in an estimated 40,000 people a year in the U.S., but the exact number is unknown, as many people do not have symptoms. When a syrinx is identified without symptoms, it should be monitored but no treatment is needed. When symptoms of syringomyelia or syringobulbia occur, treatment can be performed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord to prevent further damage. This usually requires surgery to remove the cause of the syrinx or to drain the cyst.

If you have symptoms of syringomyelia or syringobulbia, you may need syrinx treatment or surgery. Contact our team at DOCS Health to schedule a consultation with one of our neurospine surgeons.