The Straight Dope on Transverse Myelitis May Inspire More Hope

If you or your loved one suspect you may have transverse myelitis (TM) you need to get to a doctor right away.

TM is a serious neurological condition that requires care from a specialist. Considered a rare disease, it does not discriminate, attacking adults as well as children of both sexes and is found in every race. Initial attacks appear during two basic age spans – between 10-19 and 30-39, respectively. It’s not exactly known how many Americans have the disorder, but it’s estimated that 1,400 new occurrences get reported after diagnosis, annually with approximately 33,000 people currently living have some form of disability associated with this condition.

Common Symptoms at a Glance:

While not everyone will have the same symptoms because it depends where the inflammation occurs that destroys the protective myelin sheath that covers the nerves, many people experience symptoms such as:

  • Bladder and bowel issues
  • Pain, numbness (sometimes intense paralysis) and tingling in the feet, legs, torso, arms and, back
  • Weakness – especially in the legs and arms

While scientists know that it’s caused by inflammation that attacks the spinal cord that targets either one specific section or a broader area—what they don’t know—is what causes the inflammation. Some clinicians believe that it’s caused by a virus, pneumonia, high fever, Lyme disease, and the measles among others.


TM is nothing to fool around with, delaying prompt medical treatment during an onset of numbness could easily worsen, leaving the person paralyzed. Permanently.


It typically only attacks once or twice in most people and if caught early, doctors can order steroids to help to reduce inflammation and lessen the chances that permanently disability will occur. The bad news is: steroids. Everyone finds them difficult to tolerate—plus steroids have short-term and long-term side effects of their own. Your doctor will of course outweigh the benefits with the risks when they talk with you.

OTHER GOOD NEWS: Scientists are doing some solid research into TM which you can check out by visiting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website, here. Clinical trials may still be recruiting people who’ve been diagnosed.

Alisha Stone

Alisha Stone

Alisha Stone has a BA in psychology and is dedicated to improving the lives of others living with chronic illnesses.

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