Medical conditions can be somewhat fascinating, especially those that are a bit on the rare side. It’s a little bit of human nature and a little bit of, “But what if I get this rare disease, I should be prepared just in case.” So, to satisfy both, we present hydromyelia.
We will cover the hydromyelia definition, as well as the causes, symptoms, and treatment options. You may not know what it is right now, but hopefully, you will by the end of this article. You will have a good starting point of knowledge, whether you are just curious about rare medical situations or you are worried about you or a loved one who is suffering from this condition.
What Is Hydromyelia?
There is a little bit of a descriptive note in the fact that hydro comes from the Greek word meaning water, but beyond that, the name doesn’t give us much in the way of clues. Hydromyelia is a rare condition where there is a widening of the intraspinal cavity or dilation of the central spinal canal, leading to fluid and pressure buildup in that area.
If left to advance, hydromyelia will continue to widen the canal, leading to nerve and sensory damage. Essentially, the intraspinal cavity widens, resulting in pressure on the spine and nerves in the area that has been widened due to the pressure of fluid buildup. With something that sounds this harsh to you and your body, it’s good to know what causes this condition.
With something as potentially devastating as hydromyelia, you would hope that medical science has a clear picture of what causes it. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the case.
More often than not, the cause is an obstruction of the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid creating pressure and a buildup of that fluid. In many cases, the obstruction’s cause can be the result of a spinal cord injury or a spinal cord injury that is followed by an infection in the area of the injury. A mass (like a cyst) or tumor that develops in the spine can also cause hydromyelia.
There are occasions where the condition and obstruction are there since birth, and those are more difficult to try and figure out. But, in terms of why these occur or why a non-cancerous mass forms is still a bit on the unknown side.
Genetic components may also cause hydromyelia. But at the time of this writing, those components and their roles aren’t completely understood as to where they fit or how they cause it to occur. Luckily, medicine can identify hydromyelia and its symptoms.
The symptoms that come with hydromyelia will sound familiar to anyone who has read about or dealt with any type of injury or damage to the spinal cord area. The symptoms tend to start off small and gradually increase over time, especially if it begins at birth or in childhood. Symptoms of hydromyelia can include:
1. Neck Pain
Many sufferers will feel neck pain or discomfort. Your neck feels heavy or like there is a weight on a certain part of it. On the flip side of this, your neck might lose feeling and feel numb.
2. Chronic Headaches
If you have hydromyelia, you may experience chronic headaches.
3. Sensory Loss
Some of your senses may start to malfunction, begin to dull, or even lose them. In most cases, it often affects your sense of touch.
4. Muscle Pain and Weakness
You may find it harder to pick up things or have pain in the muscles, especially in the back and in the arms.
5. Mobility and Movement Issues
You may find that movement and coordination is harder. Trying to use your hands can become tough, and walking may be a little harder and take some concentration. In some severe cases, your legs may even become paralyzed.
6. Speech Issues
Due to the interference of both the spinal column and the brain, speech patterns may be affected. Stuttering and slurring are not unheard of.
When you look at it, the symptoms make sense. But in many ways, they are also very frightening, which means getting a proper diagnosis is paramount.
To diagnose hydromyelia, the doctor will first take a look at your recent and past medical histories, making particular note of anything that may have affected your spine, like infections or trauma.
After discussing your medical history, a physical examination usually takes place with the doctor looking for abnormalities in the spine as well as muscle weakness and areflexia in the muscles.
Electromyography may be used to assess weakness in the muscles, as well as give the doctor an idea of cerebrospinal fluid levels. With a firm diagnosis in hand, you can then move on to treatment.
Treatment for hydromyelia largely depends on the cause. Essentially, if you treat the cause and get rid of the obstruction in the spine, the spinal fluid will flow normally. As a result, the pressure on the spine is released, returning everything to normal.
In other cases, surgery will be needed to remove the obstruction in the spine. As regards to a cyst, it will be drained and then monitored to see if it grows back. Once the obstruction has been taken care of, the patient will be monitored for a period to make sure that the hydromyelia relents, and to look for any lingering damage that it may have caused while active.
Hydromyelia Is Serious but Treatable
Even though it’s rare, for those who have it, hydromyelia is very serious business. It can change your speech patterns, as well as result in muscle pain and weakness. At it’s very worst, hydromyelia can prevent you from walking and cause paralysis.
If left unchecked, it can do some permanent damage. But treatment is available, and it can work. Hopefully, we’ve armed you with enough information so that you will be able to recognize hydromyelia, and know when to see a doctor and receive the help you need.
“Hydromyelia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment,” ePain Assist, March 18, 2017; https://www.epainassist.com/brain/hydromyelia, last accessed June 23, 2017.
“Hydromyelia,” How’s Health; http://howshealth.com/hydromyelia/, last accessed June 23, 2017.
“Hydromyelia Information Page,” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Hydromyelia-Information-Page, last accessed June 23, 2017.