Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Symptoms

Transverse Myelitis Overview

What is transverse myelitis?
A person with transverse myelitis has a rare neurological condition caused by inflammation of the spinal cord. Attacks of inflammation can damage or destroy myelin, the fatty insulating substance that covers nerve cell fibers. This damage causes nervous system scars that interrupt communications between the nerves in the spinal cord and the rest of the body. The cause of transverse myelitis is unknown. The inflammation that causes such extensive damage to nerve fibers of the spinal cord may result from viral infections, an abnormal immune system, or decreased blood flow to the spinal cord. Transverse myelitis affects only about one to five persons out of one million.

What are the symptoms of transverse myelitis?
The symptoms of transverse myelitis may develop over days to weeks. The earliest symptom of transverse myelitis may be a girdle-like sensation around the trunk. Other symptoms of transverse myelitis include paralysis of the legs, pain in the lower legs or back, loss of feeling around the genitals and anus, and loss of bladder and bowel control.

How does the doctor treat transverse myelitis?
There is no cure for transverse myelitis. Treatment may include corticosteroid medications, in order to reduce inflammation in the spinal cord. The underlying pain from transverse myelitis is treated with narcotic pain medications or nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medications. Physical therapy and psychological counseling may help a person cope with this condition.

Continue to Transverse Myelitis Symptoms

Last Updated: Jan 6, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Transverse Myelitis References
  1. Waldrup BC. Identifying transverse myelitis in the emergency care arena. Adv Emerg Nurs J. 2009 Apr-Jun;31(2):131-9. [20118863]
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