Lupus Myelitis

What is Lupus Myelitis?

Lupus myelitis is a form of transverse myelitis which is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord. What causes transverse myelitis is not yet known; the inflammation may result from viral infections or abnormal immune reactions.  In lupus, the autoimmune system launches an attack on the spinal cord.

Leading Lupus expert Daniel Wallace, MD describes lupus myelitis in his authoritative text, The Lupus Book. “This rare but serious complication of lupus can include paralysis or weakness that ranges from difficulty in moving one limb to quadriplegia. In lupus myelitis, the sac encasing the spinal cord is inflamed or blood clots are formed in the spinal arteries. Half of all lupus myelitis stems from antiphospholipid antibodies and half is from active vasculitis. The physician will probably first administer steroids to treat any possible inflammation. Anticoagulant drugs, such as heparin, are frequently added.”

Antiphospholipid antibodies are group of antibodies directed against proteins in the blood, causing excessive blood clotting. Vasculitis occurs when the immune system attacks the blood vessels, causing inflammation in the blood vessels. Any blood vessel — veins, arteries and capillaries can be affected.

For more information about transverse myelitis, visit the National Institutes of Health website