Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM)

Vaccines Can Trigger Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis

Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is a rare but serious neurological disorder resulting in the inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. This inflammation leads to damage to the protective coating surrounding nerve cells called the myelin sheath. The fact that ADEM damages the myelin makes it a member of a group of demyelinating diseases that includes multiple sclerosis.

What are the Symptoms of Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis ADEM?

ADEM diagnosis

Neurological symptoms of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) typically begin suddenly and may include:

  • Coma
  • Drowsiness or confusion
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Paralysis
  • Weakness

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.

Can Vaccines Cause Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis?

Yes. Vaccines can cause ADEM. Some of the vaccines that Sadaka Law has linked to ADEM are the influenza vaccine, MMR, and Gardasil.

Cases of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis vaccine injury are eligible for compensation in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The NVICP was set up to help victims of ADEM and other vaccine injuries.

If you need help or have questions we want to hear your story. Please call us at 1-800-810-3457.

If you want to read more about our results, including recoveries for vaccine ADEM, look here.

What Causes Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis?

ADEM is believed to be caused by an overreaction of the immune system.

This overreaction of the immune system can be triggered by a viral infection or vaccination. Upper respiratory tract infection and flu vaccine are common triggers of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.

The virus or vaccine activates the immune system, which then attacks the protective coating that surrounds nerve cells called myelin. This damage to myelin results in inflammation and the symptoms of ADEM.

The initial attack is usually accompanied by fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and headaches. The sudden onset of these symptoms often misleads doctors and medical professionals to diagnose the condition as multiple sclerosis (MS).

How is ADEM Diagnosed?

ADEM is typically diagnosed based on a combination of symptoms, medical history, and physical examination. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be used to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. A test called a lumbar puncture would be used to look for disease markers in the cerebrospinal fluid.

ADEM Treatment

There is no specific treatment for ADEM, but most cases resolve with time and do not require hospitalization. Treatment is primarily aimed at relieving symptoms and supporting the nervous system during recovery. In some cases, high doses of corticosteroids may be used to decrease inflammation.

What Happens After Suffering ADEM?

Most cases of ADEM resolve within 2-4 weeks with no long-term effects. In rare cases, ADEM can lead to more serious complications such as paralysis or death. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent serious complications.

ADEM can also 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.

Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is a rare, but serious, neurological disorder. People who suffer from ADEM typically require hospitalization and supportive care.

ADEM or Multiple Sclerosis

ADEM manifests quickly and causes damage to myelin, while MS causes damage in smaller attacks over time.

ADEM is considered to be a monophasic demyelinating disease, meaning that it consists of a single attack or “phase” of myelin damage. In contrast, multiple sclerosis (MS) is considered a relapsing-remitting demyelinating disease, which consists of recurring attacks or “phases” of myelin damage separated by periods of remission. Although the two conditions share some similarities, there are also some important differences between them.

For example, ADEM typically occurs in children and young adults, while MS is more likely to occur in older adults. Additionally, ADEM usually follows a viral infection or vaccination, while the exact cause of MS is unknown. Finally, while ADEM is typically a one-time event, MS is a chronic condition that can last for years.

While ADEM and MS share some similarities, there are also some important differences between them. These differences help doctors to better understand each condition and to provide more targeted treatment.


What Causes ADEM?

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

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

What Vaccines Are Associated with ADEM?

Influenza (flu) vaccine, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR), varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, and Gardasil (HPV) vaccine.

What Are the Symptoms of ADEM?

ADEM symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and weakness. In some cases, ADEM can progress to paralysis or even death.

What Are Demyelinating Disorders?

Demyelinating disorders are neurological conditions that involve the destruction of myelin. Myelin is a protective sheath that covers nerve cells and helps with the transmission of electrical signals. When myelin is damaged, nerve function is impaired.

What Is the Difference Between ADEM and MS?

ADEM is considered to be a monophasic demyelinating disorder, meaning it occurs as a single isolated event. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is considered to be a relapsing-remitting demyelinating disorder, meaning that it consists of periods of relapse (worsening symptoms) followed by periods of remission (improvement or stability of symptoms). However, someone can experience more than one episode of ADEM, which can make distinguishing between the two conditions difficult. See multiphasic ADEM below.

Can Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis Happen More Than Once?

Yes. It is called multiphasic disseminated encephalomyelitis.

What Is Multiphasic Disseminated Encephalomyelitis?

Multiphasic disseminated encephalomyelitis (MDEM) is a rare condition that affects the brain and spinal cord. It is multiple attacks of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) usually in the same area of the brain.

MDEM can occur at any age but is most common in children. The cause of MDEM is unknown, but it is believed to be caused by an infection or autoimmune reaction.

Symptoms of MDEM include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Body weakness or paralysis
  • Changes in mental status or behavior

Symptoms of MDEM typically last for several days to weeks. In some cases, symptoms may recur months or years later. There is no specific treatment for MDEM. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and supporting the nervous system. With proper treatment, most people with MDEM recover completely. However, some people may experience long-term neurological problems.

What Is the Outlook for Someone with ADEM?

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.

How Do You Treat ADEM?

All ADEM 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.

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.

What Is Optic Neuritis?

Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve. This could happen during an ADEM attack.

The optic nerve is the nerve that carries visual information from the eye to the brain. Optic neuritis can cause vision loss and other symptoms.

ADEM Can Be Catastrophic. We Can Help Get Your Life Back.

ADEM can result in paralysis or death. An ADEM diagnosis can be catastrophic to everyone involved.

ADEM is one of the conditions eligible for the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). Receiving an ADEM diagnosis after vaccination can be a confusing and scary experience. Often people with that diagnosis cannot work for an extended period or need treatment not covered by their insurance.

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. Our Vaccine Injury Lawyers at Sadaka Law can help. Call us today 1-800-810-3457, we want to hear your story.



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