Transverse Myelitis is an inflammation of the protective nerve cells (myelin) on both sides of the spinal cord due to viral infection or other health condition. This could lead to dysfuction of the nerves to send signals to other parts of the body and may cause pain, weakness or paralysis.
Several factors can contribute to the inflammation of the spinal cord, including:
- Viral, bacterial or fungal infections
- Certain vascular disorders
- Autoimmuneconditions like multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica, systemic lupus erythematosus, sjogren ‘s syndrome and sarcoidosis
Transverse myelitis may be treated with medications and rehabilitative therapy. Most people with transverse myelitis have partial recovery. On the other hand, those with severe attacks are sometimes left with major disabilities.
Symptoms may appear after a few hours or after several days and sometimes progress gradually over weeks.
Common symptoms of Transverse Myelitis include:
- Weakness or paralysis in the legs or arms
- Problems controlling the bladder or bowels
- Muscle spasms
- Pain in the lower back
- Numbness or a pins-and-needles feeling in the toes, feet, or legs
- Sensitivity to touch to the point where slight fingertip pressure causes pain
- Loss of appetite sharp pain that moves down to the legs and arms or around the chest and belly
The doctor may diagnose transverse myelitis through series of tests and after assessing the signs, symptoms and history of the patient. Some tests that can help diagnose the condition are:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – This test can show if there are inflammation of the spinal cord.
- Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap) – Using a needle, this method draw a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid (fluid that surrounds the spinal cord)
- Blood Tests – This tests will look for the presence of antibodies related to neuromyelitis optica. This condition can be the cause of an inflammed spinal cord.
Treatment for transverse myelitis may be a combination of medications and therapy.
- Antiviral Medication – It is used to treat virus-related infection.
- Pain Medication- This help reduce pain cause by transverse myelitis. Examples are Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and Naproxen Sodium (Aleve.)
- Medications to Treat other Conditions – Since transverse myelitis can occur because of other conditions, your doctor may recommend drugs to treat the cause.
- Medications to Prevent Recurrent Attacks of Transverse Myelitis- Corticosteroids and/or immunosuppressants help reduce the chance of having more transverse myelitis attacks or developing optic neuritis.
- Intravenous Steroids- Steroids shots are usually given on the arm to reduce inflammation of the spinal cord.
- Plasma Exchange Therapy – This involves removing the straw-colored fluid in which blood cells are suspended (plasma) and replacing the plasma with special fluids. It is used when intravenous sterids doesn’t work.
Certain therapies may help for the long-term recovery after having transverse myelitis.
- Physical Therapy – A specialist called physical therapist, may teach you techniques that will improve strength and coordination.
- Occupational Therapy – This helps in performing daily activities such as housecleaning or bathing.
- Psychotherapy- It helps in treating anxiety, depression and other emotional or behavioral issues.