What Is Myelopathy?
The term myelopathy is used to describe any neurological deficit related to the spinal cord itself. The deficit(s) can be the result of either injury to the spinal cord or spinal degeneration, and symptoms associated with myelopathy can range from impaired sensation/movement and muscle weakness to paralysis and loss of organ function.
The onset of these symptoms may be sudden; for example, after a car accident or other trauma that causes injury to the spine. In most instances, however, symptoms develop gradually, worsening over time if the source of the spinal deficit is not treated.
A common cause of myelopathy is spinal stenosis, a progressive narrowing of the spinal canal. Disc herniation, in which the inner, gel-like material in the nucleus of the disc extrudes through the tougher, outer layer of the disc, also may impinge, or press into, the spinal cord. In the later stages of spinal degeneration, bone spurs and arthritic changes can greatly reduce the space available for the spinal cord within the spinal canal. The bone spurs may begin to press on the spinal cord and the nerve roots, which in turn affects the nerves’ ability to function normally.
Myelopathy also can be a complication associated with an underlying condition such as diabetes, lupus or aquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Myelopathy is most commonly caused by spinal stenosis, which is a progressive narrowing of the spinal canal. In the later stages of spinal degeneration, bone spurs and arthritic changes make the space available for the spinal cord within the spinal canal much smaller. The bone spurs may begin to press on the spinal cord and the nerve roots, and that pressure starts to interfere with how the nerves function normally.