Living with a spinal cord disease can be incredibly demanding. That’s why Paralyzed Veterans of America membership offers resources and benefits to veterans who have several types of spinal cord diseases. Armed with knowledge and information, you and your doctor can make the right choices about managing these diseases and disorders.
Explore our resources below about spinal cord diseases, and talk to us if you need help understanding and selecting treatment options.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system, and is the most common neurological disorder in young adults. It is a chronic disease that is often disabling, but isn’t fatal. Most people with MS live productive lives and learn to cope with their symptoms and limitations.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) weakens and eventually destroys the body’s motor neurons, making functions such as walking and talking very difficult. Paralysis quickly results.
Other Spinal Cord Diseases and Disorders
Lupus is a chronic disease that causes swelling to many different parts of the body. Symptoms such as arthritis, anemia and fever make the disorder very hard to diagnose. Scientists believe that certain types of infections, some antibiotics, continuedongoing exposure to ultraviolet light and extreme stress may cause lupus. Women develop the disorder at a much higher rate than men. Although lupus can become life-threatening when major organs are affected, modern medical treatments have made lupus easier to live with. Medication, exercise, relaxation and diet can all make the disease more manageable.
Spina bifida occurs in babies during pregnancy when the spinal column does not close completely as it should, which can lead to fluid on the brain, motor and sensory impairments, incontinence, learning disabilities and depression. Veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange are more likely to have children with spina bifida; these children are eligible for benefits under the Agent Orange Benefits Act. Although there is no known cure, many people born with Sspina Bbifida can expect to live normal and healthy lives.
Spinal stenosis occurs when an overgrowth of bone or tissue decreases the amount of space between the spinal bones, affecting the nerve roots. Symptoms range from numb legs and feet to paralysis when the upper spinal region or neck is affected. Spinal stenosis can be diagnosed through X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scans and blood tests. It can be treated through physical therapy, medication or, in severe cases, surgery to relieve pressure on nerves.
Syringomyelia (SM) is a chronic spinal cord disorder that forms before birth or as a result of an accident, tumor or disease. Fluid flows into the spinal cord and causes a cyst that grows and damages nerve fibers. Initial symptoms include headache, muscle weakness and loss of sensitivity to heat and cold, particularly within the hands. Abnormal spine growth and bone deterioration may cause scoliosis and osteoporosis, and advanced SM can cause paralysis or quadriplegia. Surgery can halt cystic growth and alleviate symptoms, and cysts can be drained to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.
Transverse myelitis, a group of disorders associated with spinal cord swelling, usually occurs along with a neural injury and can cause infection in less than a day. Symptoms include muscle and back pain and leg weakness. Though full recovery is possible, many of those infected are left with permanent damage, such as paralysis. Currently, there is no known cure.