What is Acute Flaccid Myelitis: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention, Diagnosis

What is Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

Acute Flaccid Myelitis is considered to be an uncommon, however an extremely severe condition. Mostly the nervous system is affected by it especially the area of the spinal cord which is termed as the grey matter. This causes weakening of the muscle strengths and the reflexes of the body. Although Acute Flaccid Myelitis isn’t very new, since the year 2014, a large number of cases have been reported. It is in this year that the surveillance of the condition commenced. The risk associated with acute flaccid myelitis varies both in terms of age and year. A considerable increase in acute flaccid myelitis cases was witnessed in the year 2014 especially among the young children.

As per the study it was estimated that lesser than 1 or 2 million children will be affected by acute flaccid myelitis every year in United States. More than 90% of the patients in the year 2014 suffered from mild respiratory problems or even fever consistently along with a viral infection before Acute Flaccid Myelitis was developed. As per the stool tests, the results were negative for poliovirus. The experts at present are working efficiently with the national professionals in order to understand the favorable causes of acute flaccid myelitis thereby updating the information on this treatment. There are certain viruses like poliovirus, enterovirus and West Nile Virus which are known to cause acute flaccid myelitis.

Symptoms of Acute Flaccid Myelitis

There are certain symptoms that will help the people to comprehend the disease. Most of the people suffering from Acute Flaccid Myelitis are likely to have sudden weakness in their arm or leg. They can also undergo a sudden deprivation in the tone of muscle and its reflexes. Apart from these, there are certain other symptoms of Acute Flaccid Myelitis which people might have:

  • Difficulty in swallowing food
  • A slurred or unclear speech
  • Tremendous weakness
  • Facial droop
  • Difficulty in moving eyes
  • Drooping and heavy eyelids.

Numbness is extremely rare with people suffering from acute flaccid myelitis. Some of the patients might be facing pain in either of their limbs. Passing of urine can turn out to be extremely difficult for some people suffering from Acute Flaccid Myelitis. One of the even serious symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis lies in the respiratory failure because of the muscles associated with a weakening of breathing. Ventilation support, which is breathing through a machine, might be required at that time. Sometimes, it might happen that the body which is affected by acute flaccid myelitis might also move towards severe neurological complications which can ultimately lead to demise.

In case, you develop these symptoms, it is mandatory to seek the advice of the doctor at the earliest. The doctors collect information related to the various symptoms and then send the information to the health departments. It is mainly because the doctors are questioned and are asked to be alert of the patients who are suspected with symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis.

Diagnosis of Acute Flaccid Myelitis

In order to diagnose acute flaccid myelitis, it is necessary to examine the nervous system along with reviewing the X-Ray report of spinal cord. Apart from the nervous system, the various areas in which the patient is currently facing weakness should also be observed thoroughly by the doctors. The patient can face trouble concerning a poor muscle tone or even decreased reflexes. In order to look into the patient’s brain and the spinal cord, an MRI can also be done by the doctors. Diagnostic tests of the cerebrospinal fluid and the nerve conductions and its responses are also checked. Once the patient develops the symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis, it is advisable to carry out the tests at the earliest. At times, acute flaccid myelitis becomes very difficult to diagnose since the symptoms experienced are very similar to many other neurological diseases like that of Guillain-Barre syndrome and transverse myelitis. The doctors are able to distinguish between neurological conditions and acute flaccid myelitis with the help of tests and examinations.

Treatment of Acute Flaccid Myelitis

There is actually no proper treatment for acute flaccid myelitis. The various doctors who specialize in treating illness of brain and the spinal cord, they might be able to recommend several interventions as per the patient’s condition. The neurologists might refer the patient physical and occupational therapists in order to support them with the weaknesses associated with arms and leg which are caused by acute flaccid myelitis. There are various centers that are working hard and closely with the professional in order to understand better the method in which acute flaccid myelitis can be treated. The various long term outcomes or the prognosis also needs to be understood.

What Should the Parents Do Who Have a Child with Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

It is quite obvious that the parents who have a child suffering from acute flaccid myelitis have various questions and concerns. It is an extremely serious disease which can turn out to be more difficult for not only the children but also the caregivers. The parents are considered to be in the best place to act as an advocate of the child. It is advisable to talk to the doctors about the discomforts and the troubles of the child and seek information about the necessary options of treatment. It is also mandatory for the parents to talk to the child’s school and accommodate the various resources that are required for this illness for example; an attendant is necessary to look after the child. The time spent with others plays an integral role in terms of the recovery and the well-being of the patient. If the child is happy and comfortable with frequent visitors then it is good to encourage both friends and family to spend some quality time with the child.

Prevention of Acute Flaccid Myelitis

As it is difficult to understand the cause of most of the cases of acute flaccid myelitis so there is no suitable action which we can take for the prevention of it. One can protect himself from poliovirus by getting themselves vaccinated. The polio vaccine contains inactivated virus and protects against the poliovirus. However, this vaccine does not protect a person against the other viruses causing acute flaccid myelitis. Precaution should be taken against mosquito bites which carries West Nile virus. Mosquito repellents should be used and it is advisable to stay indoors. Protection against enteroviruses can be taken by washing hands adequately with soap and water. Close contact should be avoided with the people who are sick. The surfaces which have a higher chance of being infected should be cleaned and disinfected frequently. Prevention is the key to a healthy life!

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 18, 2019

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