MySQL Cursors

Understanding MySQL Cursors and Their Usage

In the world of databases, MySQL is a widely used open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) that offers powerful features for managing and manipulating data. One such feature is the MySQL cursor, which provides a mechanism to iterate over the rows returned by a query. In this blog post, we will explore what MySQL cursor is and how to use it effectively in your database applications.

Understanding Cursors:

A cursor can be thought of as a pointer or a control structure that allows sequential access to the rows returned by a query. It acts as a temporary workspace in memory where the result set of a query is stored, allowing you to fetch and process each row individually. Cursors are particularly useful when you need to perform row-by-row processing or when you want to manipulate data within a stored procedure or function.

Declaring a Cursor:

To declare a cursor in MySQL, you use the DECLARE statement. The syntax for declaring a cursor is as follows:

DECLARE cursor_name CURSOR FOR select_statement;

Here, cursor_name is the name you assign to the cursor, and select_statement is the SQL SELECT query that retrieves the desired rows. It’s important to note that the SELECT statement cannot contain variables or parameters.

Opening and Fetching Rows:

After declaring a cursor, you need to open it using the OPEN statement. The syntax for opening a cursor is as follows:

OPEN cursor_name;

Once the cursor is open, you can fetch rows one by one using the FETCH statement. The FETCH statement retrieves the current row from the cursor and moves the cursor to the next row. There are different options available for fetching rows:

  • FETCH NEXT FROM cursor_name: Fetches the next row from the cursor.
  • FETCH PRIOR FROM cursor_name: Fetches the previous row from the cursor.
  • FETCH FIRST FROM cursor_name: Fetches the first row from the cursor.
  • FETCH LAST FROM cursor_name: Fetches the last row from the cursor.
  • FETCH ABSOLUTE row_number FROM cursor_name: Fetches the row specified by row_number from the cursor.

You can also fetch rows into variables, allowing you to process the data retrieved. For example:

DECLARE cursor_name CURSOR FOR select_statement;
OPEN cursor_name;

DECLARE variable1 datatype;
DECLARE variable2 datatype;

FETCH cursor_name INTO variable1, variable2;

-- Process the fetched row

CLOSE cursor_name;

Closing and Releasing Cursors:

Once you have finished processing the rows, it’s essential to close the cursor using the CLOSE statement:

CLOSE cursor_name;

Closing the cursor releases the resources associated with it, freeing up memory. It’s good practice to close the cursor when you no longer need it.

Example: Using a Cursor in a Stored Procedure:

Let’s look at a practical example of using a cursor in a stored procedure. Suppose we have a table called employees with columns employee_id, first_name, and last_name. We want to create a stored procedure that outputs the full names of all employees. Here’s how it can be done:


CREATE PROCEDURE get_employee_names()
    DECLARE employee_name VARCHAR(255);
    DECLARE cur CURSOR FOR SELECT CONCAT(first_name, ' ', last_name) FROM employees;

    OPEN cur;

    read_loop: LOOP
        FETCH cur INTO employee_name;
        IF done THEN
            LEAVE read_loop;
        END IF;

        -- Process the employee name
        SELECT employee_name;

    CLOSE cur;


In this example, we declare a cursor name cur that retrieves the full names of employees from the employees table. We then open the cursor and loop through each row using a LOOP statement. The fetched employee name is processed, in this case, by selecting and outputting it. Finally, we close the cursor.


MySQL cursors are a powerful tool for iterative row processing in database applications. They allow you to work with result sets one row at a time, making it easier to perform complex operations on data. By understanding how to declare, open, fetch, and close a cursor, you can effectively utilize this feature to enhance the functionality and performance of your MySQL applications.

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