Transverse myelitis

What is Transverse Myelitis?

Transverse myelitis is an inflammatory disorder that affects the spinal cord. It can cause a wide range of neurological symptoms, including paralysis either partially or totally. The spinal cord is the main pathway of communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Transverse myelitis occurs when the insulating material around the nerves of the spinal cord (myelin) becomes inflamed. This disrupts normal nerve signaling and can lead to serious neurological problems.

Types of Transverse Myelitis

Transverse myelitis can be classified into different types:
  • Acute transverse myelitis: This is the most common type. Symptoms typically appear over days or weeks.
  • Subacute transverse myelitis: Symptoms typically appear over several weeks.
  • Chronic transverse myelitis: Symptoms persist for more than two months.
  • Recurrent transverse myelitis: This type involves repeated episodes of transverse myelitis.

Diagnosis of Transverse Myelitis

Diagnosing transverse myelitis is an important step in finding the right care. Diagnosis typically involves thorough physical and neurological examination, imaging tests, lab tests, and other tests. Physical examination measures things such as strength, balance, reflexes, sensory loss, coordination, and other neurological findings. Imaging tests, such as MRI and CT scans, help to identify any abnormal changes in the spinal cord. Lab tests look for markers of inflammation or infection that could be causing the condition. Other tests, such as a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) or EMG (electromyogram), may be used to evaluate the spinal cord further.

Treatment of Transverse Myelitis

Treatment for transverse myelitis depends on the underlying cause. Treatments may include:
  • Immunosuppressive medications: These medications can help reduce inflammation and improve symptoms. Examples include prednisone, azathioprine, and methotrexate.
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG): This type of therapy is used to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms.
  • Plasmapheresis: This is a process that involves removing the patient's blood, filtering it to remove antibodies, and returning it to the patient.
  • Physical therapy: This can help improve strength, balance, coordination, and function.
  • Occupational therapy: This therapy can help improve activities of daily living and quality of life.

Risks of Transverse Myelitis

Transverse myelitis can potentially cause several complications, including:
  • Paraplegia or quadriplegia: This is the loss of feeling or movement in the body parts below the affected area.
  • Urinary and/or fecal incontinence: This is a loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Chronic pain: This is pain that does not go away and can be severe.
  • Psychological problems: This can include depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
  • Neuromuscular complications: This can include muscle spasms, muscle weakness, fatigue, and atrophy.

Prevention of Transverse Myelitis

Transverse myelitis is typically caused by an infection or autoimmune disorder, so it cannot always be prevented. However, there are certain steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing the condition:
  • Practice good hygiene: Regularly wash your hands with soap and water and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and get enough sleep.
  • Get vaccinated: Vaccines can help protect you from some infections that could cause transverse myelitis.
  • Manage underlying conditions: If you have an autoimmune disorder or other health condition, make sure to follow any treatment recommendations from your doctor.