Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM)

Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis or ADEM is a condition caused by inflammation in the brain and spinal cord that leads to damage and destruction of myelin, which acts as a protective layer around nerve endings.

There is a strong correlation between recent infections and viruses and the development of ADEM in patients. In a much smaller percentage of cases, the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine contributed to the development of ADEM.

The condition can cause partial or complete vision loss due to the inflammation of the optical nerve, muscle weakness that could lead to paralysis in extreme cases, and difficulty controlling movements in limbs.

Cause of ADEM

The leading cause of ADEM is a sudden, intensive attack of the inflammation in the brain and spinal cord tissue, damaging the myelin that protects nerve endings. The initial attack mimics encephalitis symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and headaches. The sudden onset of symptoms often misleads doctors and medical professionals to diagnose the condition as a multiple sclerosis (MS) attack.

Scientific research shows a close link between strong infections and viruses and ADEM. The same research also indicates that a small percentage of patients develop Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis after vaccination.

Do Vaccines Cause ADEM?

While there is no direct scientific evidence to support the claims that certain vaccines cause ADEM, there are many cases where patients have developed ADEM after a vaccination. The most common type of vaccine associated with ADEM is the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine.

Since the federal government has recognized Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis vaccine injury, it is an eligible condition for compensation on the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program list. If you or your loved ones develop symptoms consistent with ADEM vaccine injury, you might be eligible for compensation from the federal government.


The most common symptoms associated with ADEM are mainly neurological:

  • Partial or full loss of vision due to inflammation of the optical nerve
  • Muscle weakness and, in rare cases, paralysis
  • Loss of control of voluntary muscle movements

These symptoms have a lot in common with early MS attacks, leading many doctors to misdiagnose the condition. However, the differences in the symptoms are quite apparent. ADEM manifests quickly and causes damage to myelin, while MS causes damage in smaller attacks over time.


All ADEM-related treatment focuses on reducing the inflammation in the affected areas in the brain and spinal cord. Patients start the treatment using anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroid methylprednisolone or oral corticosteroids.  Most of the patients show improvements within days of the therapy. If corticosteroids do not help, doctors might try plasmapheresis or immunoglobulin therapy.

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The long-term outlook for most ADEM patients is favorable, as a large percentage of them will fully recover within six months. In a smaller percentage of cases, patients might recover with some lingering issues such as nerve damage, impaired vision, weakness, or cognitive difficulties. In very rare cases, ADEM can lead to death.

ADEM is a condition that can reoccur. In those situations, the patient undergoes initial therapy again.


What causes ADEM?

ADEM typically occurs a week or two after an infection. Bacterial, viral, or other types of infections have all been associated with ADEM. Occasionally, the condition can occur after a vaccination, usually the one for measles, mumps, and rubella.

What are the symptoms of ADEM?

ADEM comes with various neurological symptoms such as loss of vision, loss of muscle control, muscle weakness or paralysis, fever, nausea, vomiting, etc.

What treatment options are available?

The main treatment option is the use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroid methylprednisolone. The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation in the central nervous system. If the steroid treatment fails, plasmapheresis or intravenous immunoglobulin therapy is the second option.

If you are developing ADEM-like symptoms, visit a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor’s ADEM diagnosis will also include a treatment plan and some additional things you can do to improve your condition.

ADEM is on the list of eligible conditions for the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), and you or your loved ones might be eligible for compensation if your ADEM diagnosis coincides with a recent vaccination.

Applying for and claiming compensation from the NVICP is complex and could take a long time to complete, and legal assistance during this process is highly recommended. At Sedaka Associates, we help clients apply for vaccine injury-related compensation by providing legal advice, preparing the necessary documentation, and navigating the complex legal framework.

Book a consultation to learn more about your rights and options.


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The first step in helping yourself or a loved one after a serious vaccine related injury is to contact us for a free review of your case.

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