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What causes marrow edema in the spine?

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Quick Answer

The most common causes of marrow edema in the spine are injury to the bone itself or to the surrounding connective tissue. It is also caused by osteoarthritis and other joint disorders. At times, marrow edema stems from bone cancer, inflammation of membranes and bruising, as mentioned by Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center.

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Full Answer

Bone marrow edema is a collection of fluid in the bone marrow, the spongy substance inside most bones. Bone marrow manufactures white and red blood cells. Causes of edema in bone marrow may be related to fractures, bruises and torn tissue. Those who play high-impact sports are at a higher risk for developing marrow edema as a result of sports-related injuries, according to Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. These injuries commonly heal with proper treatment, and any fluid buildup typically decreases gradually.

Certain autoimmune disorders such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis can also cause marrow edema. They typically cause swelling at the joints, which can lead to damage and injury over time. This often leads to fluid buildup and can cause severe pain and swelling. Medications may help alleviate symptoms, although there is no cure for either of these conditions as of 2015, as quoted by HealthTap.

Bone marrow edema caused by a tumor or bone cancer is rare and usually arises from cancers such as leukemia that directly impact the marrow. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or bone marrow transplants are used to treat these cancers. Bone marrow edema is not determined based on symptoms alone. Diagnosis is the result of clinical tests, including magnetic resonance imaging, states Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center.

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