What is Wallenberg Syndrome?

Wallenberg Syndrome is a disorder that affects the nervous system. It is also known as Lateral Medullary Syndrome. It is a neurological condition that develops when an injury occurs in a portion of the brainstem called the Lateral Medulla.

Causes of Wallenberg Syndrome

Wallenberg Syndrome is usually caused by a stroke that occurs in a part of the brainstem called the Lateral Medulla. This happens when one of the arteries leading to the Lateral Medulla is blocked, and oxygenated blood can’t get to this part of the brain, leading to a stroke. This causes the affected cells and nerves to die due to lack of blood supply.

However, several other disorders or conditions reportedly have been associated with Wallenberg Syndrome, including

  • Ischaemia due to decreased blood supply
  • Cancer
  • Head or neck injuries
  • Hematoma
  • Brainstem tuberculoma, a rare form of tuberculosis (Read more about tuberculosis)
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Symptoms of Wallenberg Syndrome

Because the brain stem is in charge of delivering messages to the spinal cord for motor and sensory function, a stroke in this area causes problems with how the person’s muscles function and sensations are felt. Additionally, Wallenberg Syndrome may cause numerous symptoms depending on the exact cause and the exact location of the damage to the Lateral Medulla. The most common symptom is difficulty in swallowing. Moreover, in a few cases, some people may not be able to swallow at all. Other symptoms may include the flowing:

  • Difficulty in Breathing
  • Difficulty in Speaking
  • Severe, persistent hiccups
  • Hoarseness in the voice
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Dizziness or Vertigo
  • Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Reduced sweating
  • Loss of taste on one side of the tongue
  • Rapid involuntary eye movements
  • Lack of pain and temperature sensation on one side of the face, or different symptoms on each side of the body
  • Difficulty walking and maintaining balance. Some people find it difficult to keep their balance when they walk, because they feel like their world is tilting

Diagnosis

Wallenberg Syndrome may appear easy to recognize, but doctors will want to ensure that they are not confusing symptoms with those of other illnesses. Doctors may order imaging tests such as CT scan or MRI scan. An MR angiography can be done to see the blood supply to that area.

Treatment of Wallenberg Syndrome

Since there is no simple cure for Wallenberg Syndrome, treatment usually involves minimizing the symptoms a person is experiencing. Additionally, therapy and rehabilitation are important features of treating Wallenberg Syndrome. Some of the treatment methods are:

  • In swallowing difficulty, a patient may require a feeding tube.
  • Doctors may prescribe blood thinners to help dissolve any blockage in the artery that has caused the damage.
  • Medications may be necessary in order to control risk factors associated with strokes, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Doctors may prescribe pain management medications to help treat long-lasting pain.
  • For walking and balance problems, physical therapy is helpful.
  • Physiotherapy to be started early.

Outlook

The outlook for Wallenberg Syndrome varies from person to person. It depends upon the size and location of the area of the brain stem damaged by the stroke. Moreover, some people see a decrease in their symptoms in a few weeks or months, while others may be left with serious neurological problems for years.