What Is Viral Myelitis?


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Myelitis is inflammation of the gray and white matter of the spinal column, according to the Merck Manual. Myelitis is not known to be caused by a virus but often follows a viral infection, especially infection of the gastrointestinal or respiratory tracts or spinal cord. Transverse myelitis symptoms include sudden back or neck pain and shooting sensations that radiate down legs, arms or around the abdomen. Sensitivity to heat, cold and light touch may also be present, explains Mayo Clinic.

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Myelin coats nerve cell fibers. When nerves are inflamed, nerve signal disruption may cause weakness, paralysis, severe pain and bowel and bladder dysfunction. Myelin disorders are common in people with multiple sclerosis. Myelitis is an early symptom of multiple sclerosis and may also indicate a relapse of the same. Diagnosis of myelitis is made with MRI and CSF tests. Treatments include rehabilitative therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs, notes Mayo Clinic.

Some cases of myelitis are associated with lupus, Sjogren's syndrome and other autoimmune disorders. Infectious vaccines, including vaccination for hepatitis, measles, mumps and tetanus, may trigger an episode of myelitis, states Mayo Clinic. The prognosis for transverse myelitis is not especially good. Most patients partially recover, but many suffer lifelong disability as a result.

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