What is superficial siderosis (SS)?
Superficial siderosis is a rare degenerative condition affecting the brain and spinal cord.
SS occurs after continuous slow internal bleeding in the subarachnoid space, a brain area which contains the cerebrospinal fluid and major blood vessels.
This build-up of blood results in iron deposits forming, causing toxicity and degeneration.
There are two types of superficial siderosis – cortical SS and infratentorial SS
What causes superficial siderosis?
Superficial siderosis is usually caused by a head or spinal injury, which can occur years before the first symptoms appear.
This initial event causes slow bleeding into the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
As the blood molecules begin to break down, the leftover iron begins to form dangerous clots around the brain and inside the spinal cord canal.
Other common causes for SS can include tumours in the central nervous system and malformations of major blood vessels.
There is currently no cure for superficial siderosis. Proper recognition and diagnosis of SS symptoms are vital for early intervention and preparation for care planning.
Some therapy methods include chelation therapy, a medical procedure that involves the intake of special medicine to reduce the heavy iron congestion in the blood.
Symptoms of superficial siderosis
Both types of superficial siderosis share many symptoms with other neurological conditions and are often confused with multiple sclerosis (MS), or Parkinson’s.
The three main symptoms of superficial siderosis include:
- Sensorineural hearing loss – damage to the inner ear
- Ataxia – problems with balance and coordination
- Myelopathy – compression of the spinal cord.
Additionally, some rarer associated symptoms of SS can occur, including:
- Cognitive impairments
- Mood disturbance
- Uncontrolled eye movements
- Reduced visual memory
- Spasticity – unusual muscle tightness
- Bladder and bowel dysfunction
- Peripheral neuropathy – degeneration of the peripheral nerves
- Difficulty swallowing.