Spinal cord disorders can cause permanent and irreparable cord problems. These disorders usually are a result of some condition outside of the spinal cord.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, progressive, degenerative disorder that affects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Surrounding and insulating nerve fibers is a fatty substance known as myelin, which facilitates the conduction of nerve impulse transmissions. MS is characterized by intermittent damage to myelin in a process known as “demyelination” caused by the destruction of specialized cells oligodendrocytes that form myelin. Demyelination causes scarring and hardening (sclerosis) of nerve fibers, usually in the spinal cord, brain stem, and optic nerves, which slows nerve impulses and results in weakness, numbness, pain, and vision loss.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. The disease belongs to a group of disorders known as motor neuron diseases, which are characterized by the gradual degeneration and death of motor neurons. The cause of ALS is not known, and scientists do not yet know why ALS strikes some people and not others, but it occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic boundaries. ALS affects as many as 30,000 Americans, with 5,600 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. Each year.
Polio—also known as poliomyelitis—is a contagious viral disease that attacks the central nervous system and can cause temporary or permanent paralysis and weakness. While the disease has been virtually conquered in many areas of the world through vaccines, some survivors of childhood polio have been experiencing a new syndrome called “post-polio” that typically emerges 25 to 30 years after the initial attack.
Spina bifida is the most common neural tube defect. In the developing vertebrate nervous system, the neural tube is the precursor of the central nervous system. Neural tube defects result from the failure of the spine to close properly during the first month of pregnancy. Worldwide incidence of spina bifida is 1–2 cases per 1,000 births, but certain populations have a significantly greater risk
Transverse myelitis (TM) is a neurologic syndrome caused by inflammation of the spinal cord. TM occurs in both adults and children and is uncommon, but not rare. Conservative estimates of incidence per year vary from 1 to 5 per million population. The term myelitis is a nonspecific term for inflammation of the spinal cord; transverse refers to involvement across one level of the spinal cord. TM often develops in the setting of viral and bacterial infections, especially those which may be associated with a rash, such as rubella, influenza, or mumps. Approximately one third of patients with TM report flu-like symptoms prior to the onset of neurologic symptoms.
Syringomyelia (sear-IN-go-my-EEL-ya) is a disorder in which a cyst forms within the spinal cord. This cyst, called a syrinx, expands and elongates over time, destroying the center of the spinal cord. Since the spinal cord connects the brain to nerves in the extremities, this damage results in pain, weakness, and stiffness in the back, shoulders, arms, or legs. Other symptoms may include headaches and a loss of the ability to feel extremes of hot or cold, especially in the hands. Signs of the disorder tend to develop slowly. If not treated surgically, syringomyelia often leads to progressive weakness in the arms and legs, loss of hand sensation, and chronic, severe pain. In most cases, the disorder is related to a congenital abnormality of the brain called a Chiari I malformation.
Brown-Sequard syndrome (BSS) is a rare neurological condition that creates a lesion in the spinal cord. Contrary to conventional spinal cord injury that leaves most victims paralyzed on both sides of their body, Brown-Sequard syndrome results in weakness or paralysis (hemiparaplegia) on one side of the body and a loss of sensation (hemianesthesia) on the opposite side. Brown-Sequard may be caused by a spinal cord tumor, trauma or puncture wound ot the back or neck, obstruction of a blood vessels, infectious or inflammatory diseases such as tuberculosis, or multiple sclerosis.