Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare neurological condition that can cause paralysis. It mainly occurs in children, but it can occur in adults, too.
As of writing, the
Below, we’ll go into more detail about AFM, including its symptoms and causes, as well as how doctors diagnose and treat it.
AFM is a rare neurological condition that impacts the nervous system. The most common symptom of AFM is limb weakness or paralysis that comes on suddenly.
People with AFM have areas of damage in the gray matter of the spinal cord that doctors can see using an MRI. The gray matter is important for things like muscle movement and gathering sensory information.
The damage that occurs due to AFM can be permanent and life threatening. This makes AFM a medical emergency. According to the
Many people who develop AFM have an illness with fever about
When the symptoms of AFM develop, they can include:
- limb weakness or paralysis that comes on suddenly
- loss of reflexes
- pain in the limbs, neck, or back
- difficulty with movement
- facial weakness, which can cause drooping eyelids or difficulty moving the eyes
- difficulty talking or swallowing
Fever and headache are also common symptoms of AFM.
AFM is a medical emergency. If you or a child experiences any of the symptoms above, call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately.
The exact cause of AFM is still unknown. However, an increase in the occurrence of AFM often links to a rise in illnesses due to the enterovirus EV-D68, which can cause a cold-like illness.
Indeed, many people who develop AFM report having an illness with fever before their symptoms come on. Most cases of AFM happen
We don’t know how exactly EV-D68 may cause AFM. It’s possible that the damage in the gray matter, which leads to the symptoms of AFM, could be due to the virus itself, the immune system’s response to the infection, or both.
Many people that get AFM are children. A
Is AFM related to polio?
Polio and AFM cause very similar symptoms. Additionally, EV-D68 and poliovirus are both enteroviruses. However, experts have not detected poliovirus in samples from people with AFM.
According to the
The diagnosis of AFM can be tricky. Not only is it rare overall, but its symptoms can be similar to other neurological conditions, including, but not limited to:
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- transverse myelitis
- multiple sclerosis
- acute disseminated encephalomyelitis
Getting a thorough medical history is important. In addition to evaluating your symptoms, a doctor will note things like age, time of year, and if you have a recent history of illness with fever.
They can also do the following tests to help confirm a diagnosis of AFM:
- Physical exam: During this exam, your doctor will look for areas with reduced muscle tone and weakness. They’ll also check your reflexes.
- MRI scan: An MRI scan uses radio waves and strong magnets to create images of the inside of your body. Doctors can use it to look for signs of damage in your spinal cord.
- Cerebrospinal fluid analysis: This test uses a sample of cerebrospinal fluid that a doctor collects using a lumbar puncture. It can help your doctor to look for signs of inflammation in your spinal cord.
- Nerve conduction tests: These tests help check the signaling along your nerves. They can help a doctor figure out where along your nerves the weakness or paralysis starts.
- Laboratory tests: Additional laboratory tests of blood, stool, or respiratory samples can aid your doctor in confirming or ruling out other health conditions as the causes of your symptoms.
There’s currently no standard treatment for AFM. Further, according to a
Right now, the treatment of AFM focuses on providing supportive care, such as:
- monitoring vital signs like respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure
- managing pain
- stabilizing respiratory, heart, and bowel function
- providing respiratory support with a ventilator, if necessary
- preventing complications from being immobile, such as bed sores and blood clots
It’s also possible that your doctor may choose to use other types of treatments as well, such as:
These treatments can help suppress the immune system to reduce an immune response that could be a factor in an underlying condition.
However, according to
Since experts don’t yet know the exact cause of AFM, there’s currently no way to prevent it completely. It’s unclear why some people develop AFM and others do not.
However, since AFM links with a viral infection, there are some general steps that you can take to help reduce your risk, such as:
- washing your hands frequently with soap and water
- refraining from touching your eyes, mouth, or nose with unwashed hands
- cleaning frequently touched surfaces in your home regularly, such as doorknobs and light switches
- avoiding close physical contact with people who are sick
AFM can lead to permanent muscle weakness or paralysis. Although the outlook can vary by individual, generally speaking, a full recovery is uncommon.
For example, a
Whether or not experts detect enterovirus in samples may also affect the outlook, according to a
- admission to the ICU
- weakness or paralysis affecting all four limbs
- bulbar palsy, which can cause symptoms like trouble breathing and difficulty swallowing or speaking
- problems with bowel or bladder function
- cardiovascular instability, which can include atypical heart rate or blood pressure
Doctors will likely recommend physical therapy, occupational therapy, or both if you’ve had AFM. Physical therapy focuses on improving strength and flexibility, while occupational therapy helps you to learn ways to do daily activities.
AFM is a rare neurological condition that can lead to permanent muscle weakness or paralysis. It mainly affects children, but adults can develop the condition as well.
Experts generally believe that a viral infection may trigger AFM, specifically with the enterovirus EV-D68. However, why some people develop AFM while others do not is currently unclear.
AFM is a medical emergency. If you or a child experiences limb weakness or paralysis that comes on suddenly, get emergency medical care.