Social Security Disability and Syringomyelia
Body pain, weakness in the extremities, stiffness in the limbs, all these are possible symptoms of syringomyelia. “Syringomyelia is the development of a fluid-filled cyst within the spinal cord.” This cyst presses the spinal cord against the vertebrae causing the pain, weakness, and stiffness. Symptoms In addition to pain, weakness, and stiffness, syringomyelia can cause the loss of reflexes and the loss of sensitivity to pain and temperature. There is also the possibility of problems with bowel and bladder functions. Scoliosis, a spinal curvature, can also occur. It takes a thorough medical evaluation for an accurate diagnosis of syringomyelia as these symptoms can occur with other disorders or injuries. Causes A specific cause of syringomyelia is not known. Doctors know that certain conditions and diseases can make an individual susceptible to syringomyelia. Some of these conditions are:
- Chiari malformation is where brain tissue protrudes into the spinal cord.
- Meningitis causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
- A spinal cord tumor that interferes with the normal circulation of cerebrospinal fluid.
- Tethered spinal cord syndrome where tissue attached to the spinal cord limits the spinal cord's movement.
- Spinal injuries that may cause symptoms months or years after the initial injury.
- Spinal scar tissue that developed after surgery.
Information from Mayo Clinic Diagnosis As noted, doctors will make a thorough medical evaluation including personal medical history and physical examination. If the doctor suspects syringomyelia, then an MRI will be ordered to scan the spine and spinal cord to visualize the cyst. Treatments Depending on the severity of an individual's situation will dictate the treatment options a doctor may recommend. If a syringomyelia cyst is found while assessing another condition and it is not causing symptoms, then many doctors will recommend monitoring the cyst with periodic MRIs. If the symptoms are severe and cause an individual problems with everyday activities, then surgery might be suggested. Depending on where the syringomyelia is located will dictate the type of surgery. If the syringomyelia is caused by a chiari malformation, then surgery to enlarge the opening at the base of the skull and expand the covering of the brain can reduce fluid pressure and resolve the syringomyelia. Another option is to drain the cyst. Sometimes this can be done with a catheter and the fluid is removed from the body. Other times it is necessary to put in a shunt to divert the fluid from the cyst to outside the spinal cord. The shunt will remain in place after the surgery is completed. If a cyst is caused by a tumor or bony growth, then surgery to remove the tumor or growth will allow the spinal fluid to move freely again and drain the cyst. Social Security Disability The Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at the impact the syringomyelia has on a person's everyday functioning. The SSA assesses the severity of symptoms such as difficulty in swallowing and chewing, slurring speech, and a decrease in the size and/or function of the tongue, among others. In addition, an individual's ability to stand and walk, and their finger dexterity and gross motor functions are evaluated as well. SSD applications require extensive documentation on an applicant's medical condition. If you are considering applying for disability benefits, contact our experienced attorney to assist you.