What is Transverse Myelitis?

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Transverse Myelitis (TM) is a rare neurological disorder and one of a number of “neuroimmunologic” diseases of the central nervous system. This group of neurological disorders share common mechanisms and have many common symptoms.

TM can occur on its own or with another illness. When it occurs without any apparent underlying cause it is referred to as idiopathic. Idiopathic TM is thought to be a result of abnormal activation of the immune system against the spinal cord.

TM can also occur alongside viral and bacterial infections and can be acute or slow developing.

It is said that approximately one third of patients with TM report a flu-like illness with fever around the time of the onset of neurological symptoms. Vaccinations can be linked with TM and ADEM but causation cannot be proven

The TM Society hold a TM awareness day on or around the 9th June each year and its members, groups and supporters hold events and do activities to help educate people about TM and the work of the TM Society. TM Awareness Day is a good opportunity for supporters to work together and make a difference to the lives of those people affected by Transverse Myelitis and related conditions.

Symptoms of Transverse Myelitis

There is tremendous variability in the presentation of symptoms, which are based on the level of the spinal cord affected and on the severity of the damage to the myelin and the neurons in the spinal cord.

The symptoms of TM include muscle weakness, paralysis, paraesthesia or un-comfortable nerve sensations, neuropathic pain, spasticity, fatigue, depression and bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction.

Commonly, the very first symptoms people with transverse myelitis experience are pain in their lower back and a sudden change in sensation in the legs (unusual feelings such as burning or tingling). These unusual sensations are called paraesthesia.

Who gets TM?

TM is a rare disorder with an incidence estimated at 300 new cases per year in the UK.  Age at onset of this condition can be from infancy to older adult (five months to 80 years). The peak ages for a TM diagnosis appear to be 10-19 and 30-39 years. Males and females seem to be equally diagnosed.

What treatments are available for TM?

Corticosteroid drugs are typically used as a treatment for spinal cord inflammation with TM patients. Plasma exchange or more radical immunosuppressant therapies may be used if steroids don’t work. All other treatments only address the symptoms at this time.

All of the above information has been sourced from the Transverse Myelitis Society website where they provide a wealth of information about the condition, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment and how you can become involved in helping this charity which is made up entirely of an unpaid voluntary group.

For more information visit http://www.myelitis.org.uk/