Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) Symptoms Cause Diagnosis

Acute flaccid myelitis is an uncommon but dangerous condition that attacks the spinal cord (AFM). It can cause a sudden decrease of muscle tone, arm or leg weakness, and loss of reflexes. The sickness has the greatest impact on young children.

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The majority of children encounter a mild respiratory illness or fever caused by a viral infection one to four weeks before developing symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis.

If you or your kid develops AFM symptoms, get medical assistance right once. Symptoms can progress swiftly. During hospitalization, a ventilator may be required for respiratory support.

Following the first clusters in 2014, specialists began tracking AFM, and outbreaks in the United States occurred in 2016 and 2018. Typically, epidemics occur between August and November.

Acute flaccid myelitis


The following are some of the most common symptoms of AFM

Additional warning symptoms and indicators may include:

  • Inability to move the eyes or having drooping eyelids Facial deterioration or sagging
  • Back, neck, shoulder, or arm pain with difficulty swallowing or speaking clearly.

Some odd symptoms may include:

  • Tingling or numbness preventing urination

Due to the deterioration of the breathing muscles, respiratory failure is one of the most severe symptoms. Additionally, unstable blood pressure and potentially deadly fluctuations in body temperature are a possibility.

Whenever to visit a doctor:

If you or your child exhibits any of the above mentioned signs or symptoms, you should consult a doctor right away.


An enterovirus infection could be the source of acute flaccid myelitis. Enteroviruses can cause fever and respiratory illnesses, particularly in children. Most people recover. It is unknown why some enterovirus-infected people develop acute flaccid myelitis.

Numerous viruses, including enteroviruses, are widespread in the United States between August and November. Acute flaccid myelitis outbreaks are common around this time.

Acute flaccid myelitis symptoms can be similar to poliovirus illness. However, the poliovirus has not been linked to any occurrences of AFM in the United States.

Risk elements

  • Young children are the principal victims of acute flaccid myelitis.


Acute flaccid myelitis can cause muscle weakness that lasts for months or years.


Acute flaccid myelitis is completely avoidable. Nevertheless, avoiding viral infections can decrease the likelihood of developing AFM

Follow these actions to prevent developing or transmitting a viral infection to yourself or your child:

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your face with soiled hands.
  • Stay away from close quarters with sick people.
  • Surfaces that are often touched should be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Use a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve to cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Keep ailing kids at home.


To diagnose acute flaccid myelitis, the physician first conducts a thorough medical history and physical examination. The physician may suggest:

  • The brain system is under investigation. The doctor examines the areas of your or your child’s body that are weak, have poor muscle tone or have sluggish reflexes.
  • using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This imaging test permits the physician to study the spinal cord and brain.
  • lab testing. The clinician may collect cerebrospinal fluid, respiratory fluid, blood, and stool samples for laboratory investigation.
  • A test of fortitude This test measures both the speed at which an electrical impulse travels through the neurons and the rate at which muscles respond to nerve signals.
  • Acute flaccid myelitis can be difficult to diagnose since it has many symptoms with other neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barre syndrome. These tests can help distinguish AFM from other diseases.


There is no specific treatment for acute flaccid myelitis at the moment. The purpose of treatment is to keep symptoms under control.

A neurologist, a medical expert who specializes in treating brain and spinal cord disorders, may recommend physical or occupational therapy to alleviate arm or leg weakness. If started early in the illness, physical therapy can help with long-term rehabilitation.

To treat the disease, the doctor may also recommend corticosteroid drugs, antiviral therapies, or immunoglobulin-containing healthy antibodies from healthy donors. Alternatively, the doctor may recommend a procedure that includes removing and replacing blood plasma (plasma exchange). However, it is uncertain if these treatments are beneficial.

Occasionally, surgery to transfer muscles and nerves is performed to improve limb function.

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