Understanding cursor implementation in MySQL

In MySQL, a cursor is a database object that allows you to retrieve and manipulate data row by row. It provides a mechanism for iterative processing of query results. Cursors are often used when you need to perform complex data operations or when you want to process data sequentially.

Here’s a detailed explanation of the life cycle of a cursor in MySQL:

  1. Cursor Declaration: The first step in using a cursor is declaring it. You define the cursor by specifying the query that will be executed to retrieve the data set you want to process.

DECLARE cursor_name CURSOR FOR SELECT column1, column2 FROM table_name WHERE condition;

For example, you might declare a cursor named my_cursor to fetch data from the customers table based on a certain condition.

2. Cursor Opening: Once you have declared the cursor, you need to open it to start fetching data from the result set.

OPEN cursor_name;

In our example, you would open the cursor using OPEN my_cursor;.

3. Cursor Fetching: After opening the cursor, you can fetch rows one by one from the result set using the FETCH statement. This retrieves the next row from the cursor and assigns its values to variables.

FETCH cursor_name INTO variable1, variable2;

For instance, you would fetch the next row from my_cursor into variables var1 and var2 using FETCH my_cursor INTO var1, var2;.

4. Processing Data: Once you have fetched a row, you can perform any desired operations or calculations on the retrieved data.

-- Example processing logic
IF variable1 > 100 THEN
-- Perform some operation
-- Perform another operation

You can use conditional statements, loops, and other logic to manipulate the fetched data.

5. Cursor Closing: After processing all the rows, you should close the cursor to release resources.

CLOSE cursor_name;

To close my_cursor, you would use CLOSE my_cursor;.

6. Cursor Deallocating: Finally, you deallocate the cursor to free up any memory associated with it.


The life cycle of a cursor in MySQL involves declaring the cursor, opening it, fetching rows, processing data, closing the cursor, and deallocating it. This cycle allows you to iterate over the result set, retrieve and manipulate data row by row, and perform complex operations on your data.


Understanding the cursor implementation in MySQL is crucial for iterative data processing and complex operations. With steps like declaration, opening, fetching, processing, closing, and deallocating, cursors provide a structured approach to row-by-row data retrieval and manipulation in MySQL.

About Shiv Iyer 455 Articles
Open Source Database Systems Engineer with a deep understanding of Optimizer Internals, Performance Engineering, Scalability and Data SRE. Shiv currently is the Founder, Investor, Board Member and CEO of multiple Database Systems Infrastructure Operations companies in the Transaction Processing Computing and ColumnStores ecosystem. He is also a frequent speaker in open source software conferences globally.