The cyst-like change within the spinal cord can extend over a variable length and the symptoms it can cause reflects the level of the change within the spinal cord. Sometimes they can actually be asymptomatic. However, often they can affect sensory perception and ultimately can cause deranged motor function. As the syrinx is usually secondary to another condition, the patient most commonly presents with the symptoms attributable to that condition. Therefore in cases of syringomyelia secondary to another condition, the treatment is not aimed at the syrinx but at the cause.
Originally referred to as Arnold Chiari malformation it is also known as hindbrain hernia. In essence it is herniation (protrusion) of the bottom of the cerebellum, an area at the back and base of the brain, through the foramen magnum (the hole in the bottom of the skull for the spinal cord to exit). There are two basic types that are most commonly seen. Type one has no other associated cause and type two is associated with spina bifida. The treatment of type two may involve treatment of the spina bifida. Both types can cause syringomyelia. The treatment can cause resolution of the problem.
Idiopathic, or type one Chiari malformation, can present with headaches particularly at the back of the head, made worse by coughing, sneezing, straining. There may also be dizziness, disturbance of vision and abnormal sensations in the arms and legs. Treatment is usually surgical, but not in every case. Specialists will consider various approaches. Hydrocephalus may be associated and its treatment may resolve the Chiari malformation.