The spinal cord, commonly known as the backbone, is one of those parts of the body that can comes under immense stress because it supports the entire weight of the upper body and transmits it towards the legs. Injuries and diseases of the spinal cord have always been a major problem for doctors worldwide. Spinal cord diseases are among the most common ailments.
Degenerative and traumatic spinal cord diseases can be grouped into one. Degenerative diseases include all the wear and tear conditions that appear as age progresses. Back pain, herniated or prolapsed disks, spondylitis, stenotic conditions are some of the common ailments. Spinal cord being a long structure and without a muscle layer to protect it, is prone to trauma easily. Any history of fall or accident will make spinal trauma a likely possibility in that person. Since the spinal cord is responsible for movements of the limbs, any injury to the column will result in paralysis. because nervous tissues have a very poor ability to repair damaged cells, the recovery process in these people will be extremely slow and the prognosis is generally poor.
Another major disease of the spinal cord is tumors. Tumors can be benign or malignant (meaning cancerous) and are classified into primary, or secondary. Primary spinal cord tumor originates from the spinal cord, while a secondary tumor arises from a location other than the spinal cord and later spread to the cord causing tumor. Tumors will compress the spinal cord causing paralysis, respiratory depression, irregular bowel movements and more. congenital abnormalities of the spinal cord are rare, but is still a major health concern. Conditions like spina bifida, meningocele, myelomeningocele, and syringomyleia are all fatal conditions. In these conditions there is an abnormal morphology of the spinal cord. Spinal cord lacks the three covering layers that it normally has, and herniated outside through gaps in the spinal bone. Getting an infection is almost certainly inevitable and a definitive treatment is not there till date. The life expectancy of babies born with any of these conditions is less than 10 years, if he or she is extremely lucky. These spinal cord diseases are almost certainly fatal.
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Transverse myelitis is a condition that can be caused by bacteria, virus or fungi. Its an inflammatory disease of the spinal cord triggered by an auto immune mechanism. Arachnoiditis is a spinal cord disease that affects the middle membrane which policies it. It can present itself as a primary infection or as a complication of meningitis. Nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, headache are some of the common symptoms. Guillain-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune condition were the body's own immune system turns hostile and starts attacking the spinal cord tissues, causing damage. The patient will have symptoms like tingling sensation, and muscle weakness.
As the disease progresses, muscles become progressively paralyzed and a complete paralysis of the body follows. Trigger factor for this condition has been identified as a respiratory or gastrointestinal infection with a virus. Another viral disease of the spinal cord that has been eradicated in the developed countries but is still prevalent in developing and under developed countries is polio. It attacks the spinal cord causing progressive weakness in the muscles. The effected muscles become atrophied, weak and they decreases in size. Skeletal deformities may also arise due to this weakness.
The spinal cord is a key player in our nervous system. Any spinal cord disease will have a debilitating result for that person. All the nerves that arise from a level below the neck have their roots in the spinal cord. So diseases of the spinal cord will have an adverse effect on the functioning of these nerve cells, and since nerves control the muscles in our body, muscles are also affected.
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