Transverse myelitis (from the Greek meaning "inflamation of the myelin (nerve sheath)", is an inflammatory neurological disease that may be caused by an improper autoimmune response. The inflammatory response causes lesions to form on the nerves and, in many cases, result in demylination or loss of the sheath that coats the nerves. It arises ideopathically as a result of infection, vaccination or Multiple Sclerosis;and the exact etiology is unknown although it is theorized that viral antibodies result in the inflammatory response.
The lesions characteristic of the condition are usually localized and appear on both sides of the spine, but can appear anywhere on the spine. The patient usually shows numbness or paralysis below the site of the lesions. Transverse myelitis can usually be differentiated from other conditions causing numbness (such as trauma to the spinal cord) by an MRI, which will show the lesions.
Treatment is generally to provide symptomatic support to the patient, but there is no cure for the condition and many patients never regain full nerve function. A small percentage (about 20%) do go on to completely recover from their symptoms, but recovery can take from 2 to 24 months.