Transverse myelitis (TM) is a rare neurological disease that causes inflammation and dysfunction in the spinal cord. The inflammation damages the nerve fibers in the spinal cord. It can result from many factors, including viral infections, abnormal immune system responses, and stroke. Although TM can occur at any age, it most often affects patients in two age ranges: teens to early 20s, and 30s-40s. Approximately 2,000 people are diagnosed with TM each year in the United States.
TM symptoms can vary greatly depending on what area of the spinal cord is affected. The most common symptoms include numbness in the extremities; weakness of the legs, arms, or both; loss of bladder and bowel control; inability to walk; and impaired balance. Treatment can vary significantly depending upon the cause, but it often includes steroids in the beginning. Medications are available to help manage symptoms following the onset of TM, and in some cases patients are able to quickly return to a healthy routine at home or work. Longer-term therapies are available for patients who suffer more serious or permanent disabilities.
The UAB Transverse Myelitis Clinic was established in 2014 as one of only three clinics in the world dedicated to this condition. The clinic combines excellence in clinical care with research designed to better understand and treat this complex illness. The multidisciplinary care team includes physicians from Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Urology, and Pain Management, and together they focus on easing symptoms and maximizing the quality of life for transverse myelitis patients. Located in UAB’s Spain Rehabilitation Center, the clinic provides immediate access to physical, occupational, and speech therapists, orthotic specialists, and other rehabilitation professionals.
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