Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is characterized by a brief but intense attack of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord that damages myelin. Myelin is the protective covering of nerve fibers. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, nausea and vomiting, seizures, coma, vision loss, weakness even to the point of paralysis, and difficulty coordinating voluntary muscle movements (such as those used in walking).
Yes. Viral infection or vaccination can trigger ADEM. ADEM is sometimes diagnosed as a severe first attack of multiple sclerosis (MS) since some of the symptoms of the two disorders, particularly those caused by demyelination, overlap. However, ADEM usually has symptoms of encephalitis (such as fever or coma), as well as symptoms of myelin damage (visual loss, paralysis), as opposed to MS, which usually doesn’t have encephalitis-like symptoms. In addition, ADEM usually consists of a single episode or attack, while MS features many attacks over the course of time. MS, like ADEM, can also be triggered by viral infection or vaccination.
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Corticosteroid therapy can shorten the duration of neurological symptoms of ADEM and halt further progression of the disease in the short term, but the long term prognosis for individuals has significant variety. Studies indicate that half of all patients with ADEM will eventually completely recover. Unfortunately, that leaves the other half that will not. Of those, the prognoses vary greatly.