Syringomyelia and Receiving Social Security Disability BenefitsSyringomyelia (SM) is a chronic disorder that involves your spinal cord. For reasons that are only now being understood, cerebrospinal fluid enters your spinal cord and forms a cyst or tubular cavity within your spinal cord. This cyst, called a syrinx, elongates and expands over time, destroying the center of your spinal cord. Syringomyelia is a rare disorder. Estimates on the number of people in the United States who are affected with this condition vary widely because it can occur in conjunction with other disorders. A conservative estimate is that around 40,000 Americans have syringomyelia. Generally, there are two types of syringomyelia. The condition can be related to a congenital abnormality of your brain called Arnold Chiari malformation. This is named after the physician who first described it. A syrinx may then develop in the cervical region of your spinal cord; this is referred to as communicating syringomyelia. Some people with this form of the disorder also have hydrocephalus (water on the brain), a condition in which cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) accumulates in your skull or arachnoiditis, in which a covering of your spinal cord is inflamed. The second major form of syringomyelia occurs as a complication of hemorrhage, trauma, tumor or meningitis. In this case, the cyst or syrinx develops in a segment of your spinal cord damaged by one or more of these conditions. The syrinx may start to expand. If it does, it is sometimes referred to as noncommunicating syringomyelia. A wide variety of signs and symptoms can be experienced with syringomyelia as the nerve fibers inside your spinal cord are damaged depending on the location and size of the syrinx. You may also have various combinations of different signs and symptoms. Some of the signs and symptoms that you may have are:
- Wasting and weakness of your upper arm muscles
- Difficulty walking
- Weakness of your legs
- Pain in your arms and neck
- Numbness and decreased sensitivity to heat, cold and pain in your hands, arms, shoulders and upper body
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Chronic pain.