Acute Flaccid Myelitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) is a rare but serious neurological condition that affects the spinal cord and nervous system, causing sudden weakness and paralysis in one or more limbs. AFM primarily affects children, and cases often spike in the late summer and fall. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for acute flaccid myelitis, shedding light on this concerning medical condition.


Acute Flaccid Myelitis is a neurological disorder that mainly targets the gray matter of the spinal cord. The condition can be caused by various viruses, including enteroviruses and West Nile virus. These viruses can lead to inflammation in the spinal cord, resulting in muscle weakness, paralysis, and other neurological complications.


The symptoms of Acute Flaccid Myelitis can be alarming and may include:

  • Sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in one or more limbs
  • Difficulty moving arms or legs
  • Decreased or absent reflexes
  • Facial drooping or weakness
  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Pain or discomfort in the affected areas


Acute Flaccid Myelitis is primarily caused by viral infections, with enteroviruses, particularly Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), being a common culprit. Other viruses, such as West Nile virus, may also lead to AFM. The exact mechanisms of how these viruses trigger the condition are still under investigation.


Diagnosing Acute Flaccid Myelitis involves a thorough clinical evaluation, medical history, and diagnostic tests, which may include:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to examine the spinal cord and detect any abnormalities
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to analyze cerebrospinal fluid for signs of infection
  • Nerve conduction studies and electromyography (EMG) to assess nerve and muscle function


Currently, there is no specific treatment or cure for Acute Flaccid Myelitis. However, early intervention and supportive care can help manage the symptoms and improve outcomes. Treatment may include:

  • Hospitalization: Most cases of AFM require hospitalization for close monitoring and medical support.
  • Physical therapy: Rehabilitation and physical therapy can aid in improving muscle strength and mobility.
  • Pain management: Medications may be prescribed to alleviate discomfort and pain.
  • Respiratory support: In severe cases, respiratory assistance may be necessary if breathing is affected.


Preventing AFM primarily involves practicing good hygiene and taking precautions against viral infections. Measures include:

  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water
  • Avoiding close contact with individuals who have respiratory infections
  • Using mosquito repellents to prevent West Nile virus infection
  • Staying up-to-date with vaccinations, as some viruses can be preventable through vaccination


Acute Flaccid Myelitis is a rare but concerning condition that affects the spinal cord and nervous system, leading to muscle weakness and paralysis. While there is no specific cure, early diagnosis and supportive care can make a difference in managing symptoms and improving outcomes. Preventive measures, such as practicing good hygiene and staying up-to-date with vaccinations, can play a role in reducing the risk of AFM. If you notice any symptoms of AFM in yourself or your child, seek immediate medical attention for prompt evaluation and care.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for accurate diagnosis and treatment options specific to your condition.