Symptoms and Diagnosis of Transverse Myelitis
What are the early symptoms of transverse myelitis?
- Often (up to fifty percent of the time) the first symptom of transverse myelitis, generally beginning as a sudden onset of lower back pain
Sensitivity to touch (allodynia)
- Experienced by as many as 80% people -- a sensitivity in which clothing or a light touch with a finger causes significant discomfort or pain.
- Weakness in the arms or legs (paraparesis)
- Sensory symptoms (paresthesias) such as numbness, tingling, burning, tickling, pricking in the legs, feet or toes
Bowel and bladder problems
- May include an increased frequency of the urge to urinate or have bowel movements, loss of bowel or bladder control (incontinence), difficulty urinating, constipation or the feeling of incomplete bowel evacuation.
- Heightened sensitivity to changes in temperature or to extreme heat or cold
What determines the types of symptoms and where they occur?
The segment (location) of the spinal cord where the damage occurs determines which parts of the body are affected. Damage at one segment will affect function at that segment and the segments below it.
How long does it take for the symptoms of transverse myelitis to appear?
- The symptoms of transverse myelitis can appear suddenly, developing over hours to several days or more gradually developing over a period of 1 to 4 weeks.
How is transverse myelitis diagnosed and what tests or tools might be used?
- A complete medical history, including any history of recent viral or bacterial infections
- A thorough neurological examination
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) -- a procedure that provides a picture of the brain and spinal cord
- Blood tests to identify other possible causes of the symptoms such as systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), HIV infection, vitamin B12 deficiency, neuromyelitis optica (NMO).
- A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to examine the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord (CSF) for white blood cells (indicating a possible infection), and to look for indications of diseases such as MS.