Myelitis is inflammation or a rare infection of myelin (the insulating substance that covers nerve cells) in the spinal cord, which disrupts the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. This results in changes in sensation such as tingling, a burning feeling, or numbness of the skin, and/or difficulties with motor function. It can also cause bone and muscle pain, especially in the back, abdomen, and extremities. If the swelling and/or infection are severe enough, scar tissue can develop, permanently damaging the affected myelin and nerve cells, and resulting in loss of sensation or paralysis.

There are several known causes of myelitis including infection from viruses, bacteria, parasites, or mold, inflammation resulting from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), syphilis, tuberculosis (TB), or human T cell lymphotrophic virus types 1 and II (HTLV-I/II). It can also arise following infection, inflammation, or vaccination in the form of an autoimmune response, when the body is attacked by its own immune system.

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