Transverse Myelitis & Vaccines
Transverse myelitis is an inflammation of both sides of one section of the spinal cord and in rare cases, transverse myelitis can be caused by a recent vaccine, like the flu shot (influenza vaccine.)
By David J. Carney | Updated: Sept. 19, 2023, 10:57 a.m.
What is Transverse Myelitis?
Transverse myelitis is an inflammation of both sides of one section of the spinal cord. This neurological disorder often damages the insulating material covering nerve cell fibers (myelin). Transverse myelitis interrupts the messages that the spinal cord nerves send throughout the body. This can cause pain, muscle weakness, paralysis, sensory problems, or bladder and bowel dysfunction.
How Does Transverse Myelitis Occur?
Several factors can cause transverse myelitis, including infections and immune system disorders that attack the body's tissues. Transverse myelitis could also be caused by other myelin disorders, such as multiple sclerosis. In rare cases, transverse myelitis can be caused by a recent vaccine, like the flu shot.
How Do I Know if I Have Transverse Myelitis?
Signs and symptoms of transverse myelitis usually develop over a few hours to a few days and may sometimes progress gradually over several weeks. Transverse myelitis usually affects both sides of the body below the affected area of the spinal cord, but sometimes there are symptoms on just one side of the body. Pain. Transverse myelitis pain may begin suddenly in your lower back. Sharp pain may shoot down your legs or arms or around your chest or abdomen. Pain symptoms vary based on on the part of your spinal cord that's affected.
What are Symptoms of Transverse Myelitis?
Abnormal sensations. Some people with transverse myelitis report sensations of numbness, tingling, coldness or burning. Some are especially sensitive to the light touch of clothing or to extreme heat or cold. You may feel as if something is tightly wrapping the skin of your chest, abdomen or legs. Weakness in your arms or legs. Some people notice that they're stumbling or dragging one foot, or heaviness in the legs. Others may develop severe weakness or even total paralysis. Bladder and bowel problems. This may include needing to urinate more frequently, urinary incontinence, difficulty urinating and constipation.
Is There Treatment for Transverse Myelitis?
Treatment for transverse myelitis includes medications and rehabilitative therapy. Most people with transverse myelitis recover at least partially. Those with severe attacks sometimes are left with major disabilities.