MYELITIS is a relatively rare condition and experts are unsure of the exact cause.
It occurs most commonly between the ages of 10-19 and 30-39, but it can occur at any time.
Myelitis is a rare disease of the spinal cordPhoto credit: Getty
What is myelitis?
Myelitis is a neurological disease that occurs when both sides of the same section of the spinal cord become inflamed.
Inflammation of the spinal cord can damage the myelin (the substance that covers your nerves) or the axon (nerve fiber), which can lead to paralysis and sensory loss.
Loss of myelin can also cause scarring of the spinal cord, which then blocks nerve impulses and causes physical problems.
Myelitis falls into different categories based on the area or cause, however, any inflammatory attack on the spinal cord is usually referred to as transverse myelitis.
It’s not known what the exact cause is, but the inflammation that causes it can appear as a side effect of other conditions such as Lyme disease, syphilis, and measles.
In other cases, some people may have myelitis due to spinal injuries and defects or vascular disease.
This is because these reduce the amount of oxygen in the spinal cord tissue, which can cause nerve cells to die, causing inflammation that leads to myelitis.
What are the symptoms of myelitis?
Symptoms of myelitis can appear very quickly within a few hours or days, or over a week or two.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicines, symptoms include back or neck pain, weakness in arms or legs, abnormal feelings in the legs such as burning or tingling, and loss of bladder or bowel control.
Symptoms can appear in different parts of the body, depending on which part of the spinal cord is inflamed.
For example, people with inflammation in the neck usually feel symptoms from the neck down.
While inflammation in the middle of the spine often causes problems from the waist down.
Myelitis affects everyone differently, and other symptoms can include headache, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
Is Myelitis Fatal?
There is currently no cure for myelitis, but it is not considered fatal.
About one in three people with myelitis makes a good or complete recovery.
A third may make some recovery, while the rest have little or no recovery and have a permanent disability.
Recovery usually begins within two months of diagnosis and can last up to two years or more.
Myelitis can cause permanent physical disabilities in some patients, such as muscle stiffness, loss of bowel or bladder function, muscle weakness, or even paralysis.
Some people can use a wheelchair for all or part of their life, while others have no visible symptoms.