What is myelitis?
The term myelitis means inflammation of the spinal cord. It is not a disease in itself but a symptom of a variety of conditions, which makes diagnosis can be a bit complex. It is often referred to as transverse myelitis, which refers to inflammation of the left and right side of the spinal cord. However, not all cases of myelitis are transverse, but can be:
- Limited myelitis, where the pathological focus is only localized in the spinal cord.
- Diffuse myelitis, where the inflammation affects the entire spinal cord.
- Multifocal myelitis, affecting certain areas of the body.
- Transverse myelitis, where the inflammatory process affects several segments, one next to the other.
Symptoms of myelitis
Symptoms of myelitis may vary depending on the location:
- Tingling in the legs or arms.
- Loss of sensibility.
- Loss of strength in arms or legs.
- Pain in the lower back.
- Problems with bowel or bladder control.
On the other hand, symptoms may develop within a few days or, in other cases, after several weeks or months.
Medical tests for myelitis
The diagnosis of myelitis is complex, as the symptoms may be indicative of many other conditions. The specialist will ask the patient what symptoms he/she is suffering from and how long he/she has had them.
In addition, the specialist may order some tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, a lumbar or spinal tap, or blood tests, to rule out conditions such as spinal stenosis, slipped discs, lupus, HIV, or a spinal or spinal tumor.
What are the causes of myelitis?
Myelitis can occur as a result of:
- Infections, including tuberculosis, syphilis, viral infections and fungal infections.
- Autoimmune conditions or diseases, including Sjörgen’s syndrome or multiple sclerosis.
On the other hand, poliomyelitis is a form of myelitis caused by poliovirus, being a disease already eradicated for which there is an effective vaccine. In many cases of myelitis, however, the cause is unknown and will be diagnosed as “idiopathic myelitis”.
Can it be prevented?
It is possible to prevent some of the infections that can cause myelitis, but there is generally no known way of prevention. In addition, it is a condition that affects people of all ages and there is no specific predisposing risk factor.
Treatments for myelitis
Steroids may be given in some cases as an initial treatment, as they reduce inflammation in the spine. However, if the physician suspects that the patient has a viral disease, antivirals may be prescribed. If the cause is due to an autoimmune disease, the patient may already be receiving medication for it, but plasma exchange therapy may be recommended.
Alternatively, painkillers may also be given to control symptoms. In addition, if the damage caused by myelitis is long-term, the specialist may recommend physical and occupational therapy exercises to help you improve your physical abilities, or find alternative ways to carry out your daily chores.
Which specialist treats you?
The specialist in the treatment of spinal cord conditions, such as myelitis, is the neurologist. In the long term, as mentioned above, a physical or occupational therapist may also be involved.