Transverse Myelitis: 4 Classified Symptoms, and Complications

Transverse Myelitis
Transverse Myelitis

Transverse myelitis is the inflammation of both sides of one section of the spinal cord. This is a neurological disorder, which often damages the insulating material that is covering the nerve cells (called myelin). Transverse myelitis is interrupting messages which the spinal cord nerves send throughout the body. This can cause bowel dysfunction, bladder dysfunction, sensory problems, paralysis, muscle weakness, or pain. There can be different causes for transverse myelitis, such as immune system disorders which attack the body’s tissue and infections.

Transverse Myelitis
Transverse Myelitis

Also, transverse myelitis can be caused by other myelin disorders, such as multiple sclerosis. There are some cases when people confuse transverse myelitis with the stroke of the spinal cord, but these two conditions are different and both need different treatment. The treatment of transverse myelitis includes rehabilitative therapy and medications. People, who have severe attacks, may be left with major disabilities.

Transverse Myelitis: Symptoms

Usually, the signs and symptoms of transverse myelitis develop over a few hours to a few days and they can sometimes progress gradually over several weeks. Usually, transverse myelitis affects both sides of the body below the affected area of the spinal cord, but in some cases, there are symptoms on just one side of the body. The most common signs and symptoms of transverse myelitis include:

  • Bladder and bowel problems: This means that you need to urinate more frequently, but there can be other problems, like constipation, difficulty urinating, and urinary incontinence.
  • Weakness in your arms or legs: Some people can notice that they are stumbling or dragging one foot, or they can notice heaviness in their legs. Other people can develop weakness or even total paralysis.
  • Abnormal sensations: Some people who suffer from transverse myelitis have noticed sensations of burning, coldness, tingling, or numbness. Some people can be especially sensitive to the light touch of clothing or to the extreme heat or cold. Also, you can feel that something is tightly wrapping your skin of chest, legs, or abdomen.
  • Pain: The pain of transverse myelitis can suddenly begin in the lower back. The sharp pain may shoot down your legs or arms around your abdomen or chest. The symptoms of your pain vary based on the part of the spinal cord that is affected.


It is now known the exact cause for transverse myelitis and in some cases, there can be no known cause. The fungal, bacterial, and viral infections which are affecting the spinal cord can lead to transverse myelitis. In most cases, the inflammatory disorder appears after the recovery from the infection. The most common viruses which are associated with transverse myelitis include:

  • Mumps, measles, and rubella
  • Herpesviruses, including the one that causes shingles and chickenpox (zoster)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Influenza
  • Epstein – Barr
  • Zika
  • HIV
  • Echovirus
  • Enteroviruses, such as coxsackievirus and poliovirus

Also, there can be other viruses that can trigger an autoimmune reaction without directly affecting the spinal cord. The most common bacterial infections which are associated with transverse myelitis include:

  • Diphtheria
  • Lyme disease
  • Tetanus
  • Actinomyces
  • Syphilis
  • Pertussis
  • Tuberculosis

It is noticed that certain types of bacterial pneumonia, gastroenteritis, and bacterial skin infections can transfer transverse myelitis. There are rare cases when fungal infections and parasites can infect the spinal cord.


 Usually, people who suffer from transverse myelitis, experience only one episode. But, there are some cases when complications can happen and they include:

  • Depression or anxiety: This is a very common situation in people with long–term complications, due to the significant changes in the lifestyle, the impact of sexual dysfunction on relationships, and the stress of chronic pain or disability.
  • Pain: This is one of the most common debilitating long–term complications of transverse myelitis.
  • Sexual dysfunction: This is a very common complication of transverse myelitis. Women can have difficulties in reaching orgasm, while men may have difficulties in an erection or reaching orgasm.



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