MARYVILLE (WATE) – A Maryville woman is battling a rare disease called syringomyelia. Lisa Campbell was diagnosed with it after a car crash in 2006.
Syringomyelia is a disease in which a cyst forms in the spinal cord. Over time, it can destroy part of the spinal cord, leaving patients with symptoms ranging from progressive weakness in the arms and legs, stiffness in the back, shoulders, arms or legs and severe pain.
Other symptoms may include headaches, loss of ability to feel extremes of hot or cold, mainly in the hands, and loss of bladder and other functions. Signs of the disease usually develop slowly, but sudden onset may happen, too.
Campbell’s case came about through trauma from the car accident. She lives in pain.
“The cramps will kind of go up your whole body, even in your rib cage, and you’ll find yourself just laying down for the rest of the day,” she said. “I have bad nights where my legs are numb, they’re wobbly. I do have to prop up against stuff.”
Dr. Michael Walsh, a neurosurgeon at UT Medical Center, says syringomyelia is very rare. About 40,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed. Sometimes the disease can occur in association with other conditions. He usually sees three to four patients a year in his large practice in Knoxville.
Campbell is hoping more awareness, including a recent proclamation signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, will help lead to more funding for research.
Right now, there is no cure for syringomyelia. Surgery is usually an option, but is not always successful.