What is Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM)?

Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is a rare neurological condition in which the central nervous system of the body gets affected(1). Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis results in inflammation of the vital structures of the body like the brain and spinal cord(1). The inflammation in Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis also causes significant damage to the myelin sheath, which is the outer covering of the nerves(1). The myelin sheath insulates and protects the nerves and also facilitates smoother and faster transmission of nerve signals to and from the brain. At times, the optic nerves which also form a part of the central nervous system also get affected resulting in visual disturbance in the affected individual.

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Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) can occur in any individual. It is not related to the age or descent of an individual. However, Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis is seen more to occur during the spring and winter months. Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) typically is observed after a bacterial or viral illness within the first two to three weeks after the infection(1).

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The primary symptoms of Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) include: high fever, frequent bouts of pounding headaches, neck becoming stiff, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the upper or lower extremities. Also, the affected individual can experience difficulties in maintaining balance, speech problems, tingling along with weakness of the upper or lower extremities, problems maintaining balance, vision problems, speech disturbances, difficulty and pain with swallowing, bowel and bladder issues(1).

There have been rare instances where patients have had seizures or have gone into coma due to Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis or ADEM. The prognosis of Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis is an important aspect that comes to mind when an individual starts treatment for this condition. The article highlights the overall outlook for people with Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM).

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Prognosis of Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM)

In majority of the cases, an individual or a child with Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) tend to completely recover within a month(1). It is a slow and gradual process and in some cases it takes upwards of six months to completely get rid of the symptoms of Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM).

There have also been cases where patients do not get rid of every symptom caused by Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis. They may continue to have vision problems or have persistent muscle weakness. Children may have trouble articulating at school which may affect their overall performance due to Acute Disseminated

Encephalomyelitis. Additionally, Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) also causes a lot of missed time from school for children. This may also reflect on their overall performance at the end of the year. They might also have trouble playing or participating on physical education classes.

In about 90% of cases, a bout of Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) only happens once, but there have been rare cases of a recurrence especially within the first few months or if the advice of the physician has not been followed diligently during treatment.

However, there is a risk for developing Multiple Sclerosis later on in life of individuals(1); especially children who have had Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM). Very rarely, Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) has turned out to be fatal in a patient(1).

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: June 4, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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