This information is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).
Transverse myelitis is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord, which carries nerve signals from the brain to the rest of the body. The segment of the spinal cord that has inflammation or damage determines the symptoms a person has. Generally, inflammation at one segment causes symptoms at that level and below that level. Most commonly, the upper spinal cord is affected, causing impaired leg movement, and problems controlling the bowel and bladder. The onset of symptoms may be acute (sudden, developing over hours or days) or subacute (developing over weeks). The cause of transverse myelitis may be unknown (idiopathic) or it may be associated with a wide variety of underlying health problems, including infections, immune system disorders, and other inflammatory disorders. Tests that may be used to diagnose transverse myelitis include MRI to look for compression or inflammation of the spinal cord, and a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to look for evidence of inflammation in the fluid surrounding the spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid). Treatment options may include intravenous steroids, pain medicines, plasmapheresis (also called plasma exchange), intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), and cyclophosphamide. Some people have full or partial recovery from symptoms, while others do not recover any lost function in the affected parts of the body. Most people recover at least partially, although recovery can take up to 2 or 3 years. In general however, if there is no improvement within the first 6 months, a significant recovery is not likely.
For more information, visit GARD.