Transverse Myelitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

transverse myelitis icd 10

It’s a neurological issue that occurs due to an inflammation of the spinal cord which can damage myelin.

Transverse Myelitis refers to an inflammation of both sides of a section of the spinal cord, a highly significant part of the central nervous system.

This condition damages the myelin, a fatty material that wraps around nerve cell projections.

When myelin gets damaged, the nerves underneath can get scarred so it becomes harder for the body to send and receive signals, which may lead to the development of several physical problems.

Transverse Myelitis is a health issue that some doctors consider relatively rare, but it can still affect all kinds of patients regardless of their age or gender.

In most cases, this condition occurs between the ages of 10 and 19 as well as 30 and 39 years.


Medical experts are somewhat unsure about what leads to the development of Transverse Myelitis and the extensive damage it usually features.

However, some researchers theorize that this neurological issue might be the result of an underlying condition such as the ones mentioned here below:

Lyme disease, which refers to an inflammatory featuring rashes, headaches, fever, and chills. It can potentially cause arthritis and neurological and cardiac disorders.

Syphilis, a chronic bacterial disease spread through sexual intercourse. It can also act as a congenital condition by the infection of a developing fetus.

When this condition remains untreated, the syphilitic infection can spread to the nervous system becoming Neurosyphilis, a life-threatening disease that targets the brain and the spinal cord.

Measles, a term that describes an infectious viral disease that often features mild to moderate fever and rashes. This infection can also spread to the central nervous system.

Some people suggest a much simpler factor: spinal injuries due to physical trauma.

Other experts tend to acknowledge as potential causes spinal malformations or vascular diseases like Atherosclerosis, which features hardening of arteries.

Vascular diseases, spinal injuries, and spinal malformations can reduce the amount of oxygen in the spinal cord tissue. More often than not, that causes nerve cells to die.

The dying tissue begins to swell, and the inflammation possibly leads to Transverse Myelitis.

Some medical experts think that Immune system disorders may play a significant role in the development of this condition.

These disorders include the likes of Multiple Sclerosis. Several involve the immune system mistakingly attacking healthy tissues while dealing with an infection.


When it comes to the clinical manifestation of Transverse Myelitis, some people divide the condition into “Acute Transverse Myelitis” and “Sub-acute Transverse Myelitis.”

Acute Transverse Myelitis usually develops within several hours or a few days, while the Sub-acute Transverse Myelitis manifests between the 1st to 4th week of having the condition.

The typical symptoms of this neurological issue are listed here below:

  • A rapidly progressing weakness of the extremities, in some cases, it affects both the legs and the arms. Patients may have partial to complete paralysis of the legs.
  • Pain and discomfort, people may experience lower back pain or sharp, shooting sensations in legs, arms, or torso.
  • Sensory alteration, sometimes patients may feel a burning sensation or numbness in the legs, the torso, and even the genital area. Some cases feature sensory loss.
  • Loss of Bladder and Bowel control, which comes in the form of increased frequency or urge to use the toilet, incontinence, constipation, among others signs.

The location and severity of the symptoms will depend on which part of the spinal cord got affected by the inflammation.

For example, when Transverse Myelitis affects the upper spinal cord, the patient is likely to display weakness in the arms. Inflammation in the lower sections primarily affects the legs


Medical experts usually have reliable ways to identify cases of Transverse Myelitis.

A couple of tests that doctors can use are the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and the Computed Tomography (CT) scan.

They create detailed images of the insides of a patient’s body which can help to determine what is damaging the nerves.

Another way to identify or confirm the presence of this condition is through Spinal tap, a test that consists of inserting a needle between two vertebrae to takeĀ a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid.

If the count of white cells andĀ disease-fighting proteins in the sample taken is above the average, then doctors may conclude the body is dealing with an infection.

Some medical experts also order a Blood Test to look for potential signs of Transverse Myelitis.

Transverse Myelitis Treatment

There is no definitive cure for Transverse Myelitis. More often than not, doctors focus on reducing spinal cord inflammation, addressing any potential infection causing the condition, and alleviating the symptoms.

Some of the treatments available to deal with the complications of this conditions include:

  • Usage of Intravenous Corticosteroid drugs
  • Plasma exchange therapy (plasmapheresis)
  • Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG)
  • Analgesics
  • Antiviral Medications

In the most severe cases, people may end up with permanent neurological defects. For such patients, rehabilitation specialists recommend physical and occupational therapies along with psychotherapy.