Transverse Myelitis: A Tricky Disease With No Rhyme or Reason

The spinal cord is a major part of the central nervous system, and when it becomes inflamed, transverse myelitis results.

It often causes a band-like sensation across the trunk of the body and an alteration of the body’s sensory function.

Transverse myelitis can be triggered by immune system disorders, infections, and other conditions that damage the fatty, white insulating substance that sheaths the nerve cells. It’s called myelin.

Physical symptoms include weakness in the arms and legs, pain, bladder and bowel difficulties. Such symptoms can have a sudden onset, or develop over a period of time.

This is a tricky disease. It can affect people of any age, and it doesn’t discriminate based on race or gender. However, most new cases occur in people between 10 and 30 years of age. Some people have one instance of the condition, and recover with no lasting effects. Others are less fortunate, and suffer from life-altering disabilities and ongoing rehabilitation. If an underlying disease is present, the patient is more likely to have a recurrence.

Treatment commonly consists of a course of corticosteroids, immunosuppresants, or antiviral medications. In some cases, plasmapheresis, which is the removal of proteins from the blood, is necessary.

For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network (BRAIN) at:

P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824

You may also want to contact the Transverse Myelitis Association:

Transverse Myelitis Association
1787 Sutter Parkway
Powell, OH 43605-4884

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn is passionate about raising awareness of rare diseases and disorders and helping people connect with the resources that may ease their journey. Erica has been a caregiver, and is a patient, herself, so she completely relates to the rare disease community--on a deeply personal level.

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