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Myelitis - Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Myelitis Definition

Myelitis is an inflammation of the medulla oblongata of the brain. It is a disease of the spinal cord in which there is demyelination. A disorder of the lower spinal cord in adult males resulting in progressive paraplegia. The onset of the disorder is typically sudden. Acute transverse myelitis, which affects the entire thickness of the spinal cord, produces both motor and sensory dysfunctions.

Poliomyelitis affects the cord's gray matter and produces motor dysfunction; leukomyelitis affects only the white matter and produces sensory dysfunction. Prognosis depends on the severity of cord damage and prevention of complications. If spinal cord necrosis occurs, the prognosis for complete recovery is poor.

Myelitis Causes

Transverse myelitis is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation across both sides of one level, or segment, of the spinal cord. Transverse myelitis can also be caused low back pain, spinal cord dysfunction, muscle spasms, a general feeling of discomfort, headache, loss of appetite, and numbness or tingling in the legs. Almost all patients develop leg weakness. The arms are involved in a minority of cases. The infectious agents associated with transverse myelitis include viruses and bacteria : herpes simplex, herpes zoster, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, enteroviruses, and human T-cell leukemia virus. Patients with transverse myelitis should nonetheless be screened for MS because patients with this diagnosis will require different treatments.

In post-infectious cases of transverse myelitis, immune system mechanisms, rather than active viral or bacterial infections, appear to play an important role in causing damage to spinal nerves. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system, which normally protects the body from foreign organisms, mistakenly attacks the body's own tissue, causing inflammation and, in some cases, damage to myelin within the spinal cord.

Myelitis Symptoms

Symptoms of transverse myelitis include a loss of spinal cord function over several hours to several weeks. Transverse myelitis may be either acute (developing over hours to several days) or subacute (developing over 1 to 2 weeks).

The other symptoms of the myelitis may be included:

  • headache
  • fever
  • paralysis
  • Bowel
  • Sensory alteration
  • Bladder dysfunction
  • Muscle spasms
  • urinary retention
  • Lower back pain
  • loss of bowel control
  • Spinal cord dysfunction
  • General feeling of discomfort
  • weakness of the legs
  • weakness of the arms

Myelitis Treatments

There is no specific treatment for transverse myelitis.

Pain and spasm can be treated with medication if they occur.

Treatments are designed to manage and alleviate symptoms and largely depend upon the severity of neurological involvement.

The treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include the use of intravenous steroids and other drugs to suppress inflammation.

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