What are the signs and symptoms of disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM)-associated optic neuritis?

Updated: Nov 08, 2018
  • Author: J Nicholas Brenton, MD; Chief Editor: Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS  more...
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ADEM-associated optic neuritis is typically bilateral, although the onset in a second eye may follow onset in the first by days to months. Bilaterality may provide a degree of reassurance with regard to MS risk as optic neuritis in MS is frequently unilateral. Visual evoked responses may discern abnormalities in a second eye before clinical deterioration in vision is discernible.

  • A wide variety of cranial nerve abnormalities may occur in addition to optic nerve disease.

  • Long tract signs (eg, clonus, increased muscle stretch reflexes, upgoing toes) are present early in as many as 85% of cases. [85]

  • In some instances, reflexes may be lost at the onset. When this is caused by transverse myelitis, the evolution of disease after spinal shock replaces absent reflexes with increased muscle stretch reflexes within a few days or more. A small number of cases manifest loss of reflexes as a sign of associated peripheral nerve disease with ADEM, a condition termed EMRN. Some of these EMRN cases are associated with evidence for acute infection with Epstein-Barr virus.

    • Weakness may be hemiparetic, double hemiparetic, diparetic, or generalized and symmetric. Fairly symmetric leg weakness is seen in many cases of ADEM-related transverse myelitis with associated abnormalities of bowel and bladder function.

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