What Is Transverse Myelitis? Symptoms and Causes Explained

Former Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison, 46, has died several years after he revealed his battle with transverse myelitis.

The rare neurological disease causes injury to the spinal cord, leading to weakness in the legs, sensory problems and other symptoms.

Rolling Stone reported a representative for his family did not specify a cause of death but said the founding member of the metal icons died "peacefully in his sleep" on Monday.

Jordison revealed his battle with the disease at the 2016 Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards, after being dismissed from the band in 2013, which he said was because of his condition.

Jordison told the audience at the 2016 awards show: "I got really, really sick with a horrible disease called transverse myelitis, I lost my legs.

"I couldn't play anymore. It was a form of multiple sclerosis, which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. I got myself back up, and I got myself in the gym and I got myself back in f***ing therapy, to f***ing beat this s***."

Slipknot's Joey Jordison on a U.K. stage.
Joey Jordison performing on stage in Leicester, England in June 2009. Jo Hale/Getty Images

What is Transverse Myelitis?

Transverse myelitis is a disease that causes an inflammation of the spinal cord, which is the part of the body's central nervous system that "sends impulses from the brain to nerves in the body," explains the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Siegel Rare Neuroimmune Association (SRNA), an Ohio-based non-profit formerly known as the Transverse Myelitis Association, says the condition causes different levels of weakness, sensory alterations and "autonomic dysfunction," which controls involuntary body functions such as the heart, breathing, the digestive system and reflexes.

The NINDS says transverse myelitis usually occurs between the ages of 10 and 19 as well as 30 and 39. The disorder does not appear to be genetic or run in families and can affect people of any age, gender or race.

Symptoms of Transverse Myelitis?

Four "classic" symptoms of the disease include the following, as outlined by the NINDS:

  • Weakness in the legs and arms: Those suffering from transverse myelitis may experience a rapid progression of weakness in the legs. If the disease affects the upper part of the spinal cord, it will also impact the arms. Patients could see partial paralysis of the legs before progressing to complete paralysis of the legs, requiring the person to use a wheelchair.
  • Pain: Patients will usually start with lower back pain or sharp, shooting sensations radiating down the legs or arms or around the torso.
  • Sensory alterations: The disease can lead to "abnormal sensations" such as burning, tickling, pricking, numbness, coldness, or tingling in the legs, as well as sensory loss. These abnormal sensations are commonly felt in the torso and genital region.
  • Bowel and bladder dysfunction: Increased frequency or urge to use the toilet, incontinence as well as constipation are among the common bowel- and bladder-related symptoms experienced by patients.

What Causes Transverse Myelitis?

The NINDS says the exact cause of the disease and what causes the extensive damage to the spinal cord is "unknown in many cases."

However, the following conditions "appear to cause transverse myelitis," as outlined by the NINDS:

  • Immune system disorders
  • Viral infections
  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Parasites
  • Other inflammatory disorders
  • Vascular disorders

The NINDS notes: "In some people, transverse myelitis represents the first symptom of an autoimmune or immune-mediated disease such as multiple sclerosis or neuromyelitis optica."

Is There a Cure for Transverse Myelitis?

The NINDS says there is no cure for transverse myelitis, but certain treatments can help prevent or minimize "permanent neurological deficits." Some patients recover from the disorder with minor or no residual problems but the healing process can take months or years.

Some people will have only one episode of the disease, while others may experience recurring episodes, especially if the condition is caused by an underlying illness.

Most experience at least partial recovery, with the majority of the recovery occurring within the first three months of its onset. Others may face permanent impairments that impact their ability to carry out normal routine tasks in their daily lives, according to the NINDS.

See the NINDS website for more information about transverse myelitis.

Slipknot's Joey Jordison in London, U.K.
Former Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison seen at the BBC Radio Studios in London, England back in June 2013. The musician died Monday years after he revealed he had transverse myelitis. Ben Pruchnie/FilmMagic

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