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Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM)

What is acute flaccid myelitis?

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a neurologic condition that is characterized by weak muscles and reflexes. The nervous system, specifically the gray matter, is affected. The majority of cases are composed of children. 

What are the symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis?

The symptoms of this condition typically come on very suddenly. Major symptoms include weakness in the arms and legs, a loss of muscle tone, and a loss of reflexes. Additional symptoms may be drooping eyelids, slurred speech, trouble moving the eyes, weakness or drooping in the face, difficulty swallowing, and pain in the arms, legs, back, or neck. 

In rare or severe cases, affected individuals may experience numbness, tingling, trouble with urination, respiratory failure, instability of blood pressure, and changes in body temperature. 

What causes acute flaccid myelitis?

Medical professionals are unaware of the exact cause of AFM. They believe that viruses play an important role in causing this disease. 

Due to its similarity to polio, many people thought AFM and polio were the same. Many cases of AFM have been tested for polio, all with negative results. Organizations, such as the CDC, have been working to discern the cause of AFM. 

How is acute flaccid myelitis diagnosed?

Doctors will begin by looking at a patient’s medical history. Tests will follow, such as an examination of the nervous system, MRI, nerve conduction test, and tests of the cerebrospinal fluid. It is often difficult to diagnose AFM due to its similarity to other conditions. 

What are the treatments for acute flaccid myelitis?

Treatment for this condition is symptomatic. Doctors often specialize treatment for each specific case. Physical and occupational therapy are common treatments. 

While doctors are still unsure of the cause of this condition, they suggest avoiding viruses. This means washing hands, not touching one’s faces, avoiding those who are sick, cleaning heavily used surfaces often, and covering coughs and sneezes. 

Where can I find out more about acute flaccid myelitis?

Acute Flaccid Myelitis Articles