What causes transverse myelitis?
Transverse myelitis has many different causes, often triggered by a variety of viral and bacterial infections (especially those associated with a rash such as measles or chickenpox). Transverse myelitis may be caused by viral infections, spinal cord injuries, immune disorders (including systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjogren's syndrome, sarcoidosis and multiple sclerosis) or insufficient blood flow through the blood vessels in the spinal cord. It may occur as a complication of such disorders as optic neuromyelitis, multiple sclerosis, smallpox, and measles, or as a complication of chickenpox or
TM can also accompany a variety of diseases that break down tissue that surrounds and insulates the nerves (demyelinating diseases), such as multiple sclerosis (MS).
Some toxic substances, such as carbon monoxide, lead, or arsenic, can cause a type of myelitis characterized by inflammation followed by hemorrhage or bleeding that destroys the entire circumference of the spinal cord. Other types of myelitis can be caused by poliovirus; herpes zoster; rabies, smallpox or polio vaccination; or parasitic and fungal infections.
Many experts believe that TM can occur without any apparent cause, probably as the result of an autoimmune process. This means that a person's immune system attacks the spinal cord, causing inflammation and tissue damage.
Regardless of the cause of the myelitis, onset of symptoms is sudden and rapid. Problems with movement and sensation appear within one or two days after inflammation begins. Symptoms include soft (flaccid) paralysis of the legs, with pain in the lower legs or back, followed by loss of feeling and sphincter (muscles which close an opening, as in the anus) control. The earliest symptom may be a girdle-like sensation around the trunk.
The extent of damage occuring will depend on how much of the spinal cord is affected, but TM rarely involves the arms. Severe spinal cord damage also can lead to shock.
More information on transverse myelitis
What's transverse myelitis? - Transverse myelitis (TM) is an uncommon neurological syndrome caused by inflammation of the spinal cord, characterized by weakness, back pain, and bowel and bladder problems.
What's acute transverse myelitis? - Acute transverse myelitis is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord, the fatty insulating substance that covers nerve cells fibers.
What causes transverse myelitis? - Transverse myelitis may be caused by viral infections, spinal cord injuries, immune disorders or insufficient blood flow through the blood vessels in the spinal cord.
What're the symptoms of transverse myelitis? - Transverse myelitis can cause low back pain, spinal cord dysfunction, muscle spasms, headache, loss of appetite, and numbness or tingling in the legs.
How is transverse myelitis diagnosed? - A doctor will suspect transverse myelitis in any patient with a rapid onset of paralysis. Blood tests may be performed.
What's the treatment for transverse myelitis? - There is no specific treatment for transverse myelitis. The standard treatment is with high doses of corticosteroids. Another promising therapy is plasma exchange.