What is transverse myelitis?
Transverse myelitis (TM) is a rare neurological syndrome. It is an inflammatory disorder of the spinal cord. Transverse Myelitis may be due to a virus or other infection, but in general, the cause is unknown. Transverse Myelitis is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. In general, Transverse Myelitis is a one-time disease with a sudden onset followed by improvement or stabilization.
What are the symptoms of transverse myelitis?
People with symptoms of transverse myelitis may:
- Develop a rapidly progressive disorder with back pain, numbness, and tingling in the legs, trunk, and sometimes arms.
- Have weakness in the legs and sometimes in the arms. The weakness may become severe at times, leading to complete paralysis.
- Have trouble with bowel and bladder function.
- Have fever.
Transverse Myelitis Recovery
Transverse myelitis affects everyone differently, and the recovery process will vary for each individual. Nerve damage can cause problems including weakness in the legs, muscle spasms, spasticity, difficulty walking, numbness and tingling, balance and strength difficulties.
Recovery from transverse myelitis usually begins within a few weeks of the onset of symptoms and can continue for up to two years, or sometimes longer. Early treatment may facilitate recovery. People usually make the best recovery between three and six months after the onset of symptoms. Even if your recovery is slow, it is still important to persevere with physiotherapy and rehabilitation, as these can benefit your long-term health and support you to maintain the recovery you have made.
Approximately a third of people with transverse myelitis can expect to make a good or full recovery with very limited or no long-term effects. Approximately a third of people with transverse myelitis can expect to make only a limited recovery and are left with significant effects such as physical problems affecting their ability to walk, unusual sensations (paraesthesia), pain, fatigue, spasticity and/or problems with their bladder and bowel. Approximately a third of people with transverse myelitis make no recovery.
It is very difficult to predict what sort of recovery an individual will make. A significant recovery seems to be more difficult in people who experience a sudden onset of symptoms and do not experience much improvement within the first three to six months. A good or full recovery is possible even after severe symptoms. The myelin sheath surrounding the nerves in the spinal cord are able to repair themselves, although not always fully. Some areas of the spinal cord are only temporarily damaged by the inflammation and it is possible for them to return to normal.
You may be transferred to a rehabilitation unit prior to being discharged home. If you require walking aids such as a stick, crutches or a wheelchair, you might be assessed for these before you leave the hospital. Before being discharged home it is important that arrangements have been made for you to receive the support you need.
You may be referred to your local social services, local community physiotherapy or occupational therapy services.
A community physiotherapist can assess your physical problems. An occupational therapist can offer practical support and advice on everyday skills and activities, such as using kitchen equipment and getting around your home safely.