Myelopathy describes any area of abnormal tissue on the spinal cord, whether benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Also called central lesions, due to their effects on the central nervous system, spinal lesions have many different causes and, depending on their location, may cause different neurological (nerve-related) symptoms.
This article looks at possible symptoms and causes of spinal lesions and outlines common ways to diagnose and treat spinal lesions.
Spinal cord lesions can cause different symptoms, depending on their location on the spinal cord and the type and cause of the lesion. There may be problems with motor skills and abilities. Some people experience chronic pain, while others may lose certain bodily functions due to blockage or interruption of nerve signals.
Possible symptoms of spinal cord injury include:
- tingling, stinging, or burning sensation
- electric shock-like feeling
- muscle weakness
- rigid muscles
- Difficulty with fine motor skills such as writing
- balance or coordination problems
- loss of reflexes or hyperactive reflexes
- muscle spasms
- changes in sexual function
- loss of bowel or bladder control
- Difficulty breathing
Spinal lesions can cause a variety of neurological symptoms, depending on their location, type, and cause. These may include pain, abnormal sensations, loss of motor skills, and loss of certain bodily functions.
A lesion is an abnormal change caused by a disease or injury that affects any tissue or organ. Spinal lesions have a variety of possible causes, including:
- trauma, including a car accident or a serious fall
- Infections include polio, meningitis, tertiary syphilis, and HIV
- benign tumor
- Cancer, whether primary or metastatic
- autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS)
- inflammatory diseases such as Spinal sarcoidosis and transverse myelitis
- Vascular diseases such as spinal cord infarction
- Degenerative diseases, such as spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease
- congenital deformities such as spina bifida or Scoliosis
Causes of spinal injuries include trauma, infection, tumors (benign or malignant), and inflammatory diseases affecting the spine. They can also be caused by autoimmune, congenital, degenerative or vascular diseases affecting the spine.
Anatomy of the Spinal Nerve
Diagnosis of spinal lesions usually begins when the lesions are found on X-rays or other imaging tests. In addition to a physical exam and review of your medical history, a neurological exam will be done to check for any abnormalities in your reflexes, sensations, strength, and coordination.
Depending on the findings, additional tests can be performed to narrow down possible causes. These may include:
- blood and urine tests to look for signs of infection, inflammation, or disease
- Imaging studies, including computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Myelography to check for problems in the spinal canal
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to obtain cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for evaluation
- Spinal tumor biopsy to study cancer
Depending on the suspected cause, the diagnosis of spinal lesions may involve neurological examination, laboratory tests, imaging studies (including myelography), lumbar puncture, or tumor biopsy.
Treatment of spinal lesions varies depending on the underlying cause. In these examples:
- Infections can be treated with antibiotics, antifungals, or antiviral drugs.
- Inflammatory conditions can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, or immunosuppressants.
- Autoimmune diseases can also be treated with immunosuppressive and disease-modifying therapies.
- Cancer can be treated with surgical removal (resection), radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Benign tumors may need to be removed.
- Degenerative or congenital disorders may benefit from spine surgery.
Physical therapy may help restore function after treatment and initial recovery.
Treatment of spinal lesions varies depending on the underlying cause, whether it is infection, inflammatory disease, autoimmune disease, or cancer. Degenerative or congenital diseases and benign or malignant tumors that affect the spine may require surgery.
Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain
Spinal cord injury is an abnormal change caused by a disease or injury that affects the tissues of the spinal cord. Symptoms include pain, paresthesias, loss of motor skills or coordination, or loss of certain bodily functions. Causes include trauma, infection, autoimmune disease, inflammatory disease, spinal degeneration, congenital malformations, and benign or cancerous tumors.
Spinal lesions are usually detected on imaging studies. Depending on the suspected cause, doctors may perform neurological tests, various blood or urine tests, additional imaging tests, spinal taps, or tumor biopsies. Treatment varies depending on the cause of diagnosis.
If your healthcare provider tells you that you have a spinal cord injury, it simply means that something unusual has been found on your spinal cord. Try not to jump to conclusions or assume you have cancer. While spine cancer is possible, it is actually one of the less common causes unless you already have another cancer that has metastasized (spreads).
Do it step-by-step and give your doctor as much information as possible about your symptoms and medical history to help narrow down possible causes.