Transverse Myelitis Symptoms

Transverse Myelitis Symptoms

Transverse myelitis symptoms depend on the location and severity of the inflammation in the spinal cord.

Symptoms of transverse myelitis can be roughly categorized into four groups:

  • Muscle Weakness
  • Sensory Alteration
  • Pain
  • Bowel and Bladder Dysfunction

Muscles Affected by Transverse Myelitis

The nerves in spinal cord relay signals to various muscles in the body. A lesion on the spine can display various muscle weakness symptoms in patients. Therefore, the muscles that are affected by Transverse Myelitis are generally dependent on the location of the lesion.

When there is damage to the spinal cord (such as transverse myelitis), many muscles of the body can be affected because the brain can no longer communicate effectively with other parts of the body. When the spinal cord is damaged, the communication can be mixed up with the muscles that communicate through the spinal cord nerves in that area. Additionally, the muscles that communicate through nerves on the spine below the lesion can also be affected. Therefore, if the lesion is located in the cervical cord, the muscles that communicate through the thoracic, lumbar, and sacral segments are usually affected as well.

Sensory Alteration

Patients often report a large variety of sensory-related transverse myelitis symptoms. These symptoms commonly include numbness, burning, coldness, or tingling. Patients sometimes report that clothes feel uncomfortable due to a feeling of tightness. Some fabrics can also cause patients to feel increased sensitivity when the fabric comes into contact with the skin.

Approximately 80% of transverse myelitis patience report a heightened sensitivity to touch. Some patients report a loss of the ability to feel pain, or loss of the ability to distinguish the difference between hot and cold temperatures.


Approximately 50% of patients experience pain as one of the first transverse myelitis symptoms. The location, description, and severity of the pain varies from patient to patient. Patients commonly experienced pain in the back area, or a pain that radiates down the legs or arms.

Bowel and Bladder Dysfunction

Transverse myelitis symptoms can sometimes include bowel and/or bladder issues as the first indicator of transverse myelitis. This can sometimes begin as an increased frequency or urge to urinate or defecate. Or, it can begin as incontinence, difficulty voiding, or a feeling that complete evacuation cannot be achieved. Many patients report issues with constipation.