Acute flaccid myelitis – Causes, symptoms, and more Health

Acute flaccid myelitis – Causes, symptoms, and more

Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) is a rare but potentially severe condition that affects the nervous system. It can cause paralysis, muscle weakness, and loss of reflexes in the arms and legs. The best way to stay informed about AFM is by understanding what it is, how it happens, and what can be done about it.

This article sheds light on what one needs to know about acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What it is
Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is an unusual neurological condition that affects the spinal cord, causing muscle weakness and paralysis. It is also sometimes referred to as acute flaccid paralysis. It is believed to be caused by certain viruses, including enteroviruses, which can be life-threatening and require urgent medical attention.

Causes of acute flaccid myelitis
AFM is most commonly seen in children and adolescents between the ages of 4 and 18, but it has also been reported in adults and infants. The virus spreads from person to person through close contact with respiratory secretions, such as saliva or nasal mucus, or contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.

The virus can also be contracted through mosquito bites. In some cases, the virus travels up the nose or mouth to the central nervous system, damaging the spinal cord and causing AFM.

People with weakened immune systems, such as those with cancer or chronic illnesses, and recent organ transplant recipients, are more prone to contracting AFM. People in these categories must take extra precautions when engaging in activities that could increase their risk of infection.

Symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis
AFM is an uncommon condition that can cause severe weakness in the arms and legs, accompanied by various other neurological symptoms. It is essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms of AFM to get treatment as soon as possible. The main symptoms of AFM include acute weakness in the limbs, difficulty moving the eyes, face, mouth, or limbs, loss of feeling or difficulty with movement in the affected areas, pain in the arms or legs, drooping of the face, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, weakness in other muscles, such as those used for breathing or coughing, and muscle twitching or spasms.

If one experiences any of these symptoms, seeking medical attention right away is crucial. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve outcomes and reduce long-term disability.

Diagnosis of acute flaccid myelitis
Diagnosing acute flaccid myelitis can be a complex process. Medical professionals must rule out other possible causes before making a definitive diagnosis. AFM is diagnosed based on a person’s clinical symptoms and the results of an MRI scan.

To diagnose AFM, a doctor first goes through a person’s medical history and performs a physical examination. They may order laboratory tests, including blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis. An MRI is then ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

An MRI can provide important information about the spinal cord, such as whether the spinal cord is swollen. It also shows the presence of lesions or any signs of infection. In cases the diagnosis is unclear, a doctor orders electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies. EMG is a test that measures the electrical activity of the muscles, while nerve conduction studies estimate how well the nerves are working.

If AFM is suspected, a doctor looks for signs of other illnesses that might explain the patient’s symptoms. Overall, it can be challenging to diagnose AFM because no specific test is available to detect it. Diagnosing AFM requires a combination of clinical symptoms, imaging results, and ruling out other potential causes.

Treatment of acute flaccid myelitis
Treatment plans are tailored to the individual and often involve supportive care, physical and occupational therapy, and supplements to reduce symptoms. Some of these are mentioned below:

  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can be used to assist with muscle weakness and loss of movement. Exercises are prescribed to help maintain or increase strength and range of motion in the affected areas.
  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy can help individuals improve their ability to perform daily activities, including self-care and mobility.

It is crucial to note that the goal of treatment for AFM is not to cure the condition but rather to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Therefore, working closely with healthcare providers to find the best treatment plan for each individual is important.