Initial symptoms of Transverse Myelitis
Most people with transverse myelitis experience muscle weakness, back pain and numbness or changes in sensation (unusual feelings) at the levels below the inflammation. Symptoms can rapidly progress to include bladder and bowel problems and paralysis.
Commonly, the onset of transverse myelitis is over several hours and it can progress to its most severe state very quickly, often in just 24-48 hours. However, for some people their symptoms develop slowly over several days, weeks or months.
Transverse Myelitis Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of transverse myelitis usually develop over a few hours to a few days and may sometimes progress gradually over several weeks.
Transverse myelitis usually affects both sides of the body below the affected area of the spinal cord, but sometimes there are symptoms on just one side of the body.
Typical signs and symptoms include:
- Pain. Transverse myelitis pain may begin suddenly in your lower back. Sharp pain may shoot down your legs or arms or around your chest or abdomen. Pain symptoms vary based on on the part of your spinal cord that’s affected.
- Abnormal sensations. Some people with transverse myelitis report sensations of numbness, tingling, coldness or burning. Some are especially sensitive to the light touch of clothing or to extreme heat or cold. You may feel as if something is tightly wrapping the skin of your chest, abdomen or legs.
- Weakness in your arms or legs. Some people notice that they’re stumbling or dragging one foot, or heaviness in the legs. Others may develop severe weakness or even total paralysis.
- Bladder and bowel problems. This may include needing to urinate more frequently, urinary incontinence, difficulty urinating and constipation.
Most patients will experience weakness of varying degrees in their legs; some also experience it in their arms.
Pain is the primary symptom of transverse myelitis in about half of all patients. The pain may be localized in the lower back or may consist of sharp sensations that shoot down the legs or arms or around the torso.
Most people with transverse myelitis report heightened sensitivity to heat, cold, or touch; for some a light touch with a finger may cause significant pain (called allodynia).