A Parent’s Guide To Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM)


A parent’s love for their child is like nothing else in this world – from nourishing the fetus in the womb to hearing their first cry to loving unconditionally and protecting them at all costs. A parent will do anything within their power to keep their young ones safe. Thus, even mild colds and coughs could send the parents and the child to an emergency room no matter what time of the day. 

acute disseminated encephalomyelitis

It’s believed that a child’s immune system is weak and has yet to recognize and build a natural defense against various harmful pathogens. Vaccines are administered to help children develop and boost their immunity to diseases. However, unwanted side effects may happen and lead to serious conditions. 

For instance, a child may experience ADEM or acute disseminated encephalomyelitis symptoms and cause various health concerns after vaccination. Proper medical assessment and rapid diagnosis must be given to prevent the worsening of the condition. You may consult a vaccine injury help center so an experienced lawyer can help you with your case. 

Parents must learn the condition’s potential causes, risks, and symptoms that their child may acquire. Adequate knowledge and understanding can save many lives. Here’s a brief guide to ADEM: 

What Is ADEM

The myelin sheath is a protective covering that covers each neuron (or nerve cell). They’re responsible for the efficient and rapid conduction of electrical impulses. An intense and sudden bacterial or viral attack can cause inflammation in the white matter of the brain and spinal cord, disrupting the natural flow of impulses. 


ADEM is believed to be an autoimmune disease, where your healthy cells attack your own cells, tissues, and organs. It can develop at any age and is more frequently seen in males. Nonetheless, it’s more prevalent in children than adults. More than 80% of the patients are under ten years old. It rarely occurs during adulthood. 

What Are The Potential Causes Of ADEM

Until now, the exact cause of ADEM is unknown. Doctors, researchers, and scientists are still conducting extensive studies to determine the precise pathophysiology of how this condition develops. 

The leading potential causes are bacterial and viral origins, such as cytomegalovirus, Epstein Barr virus (EBV), herpes simplex virus, human herpes virus-6, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), influenza, measles, mumps, mycoplasma pneumoniae, rubella, smallpox, varicella-zoster, and rubella. A strong link between viruses and ADEM has been found – the symptoms usually begin after a week or two of acquiring the infection.

A particular study has eyed vaccines as a possible root for infection. It can lead to the development of neurological symptoms. Further research is needed to confirm their correlation. A great emphasis is also given to extending vaccine clinical trials to learn about vaccination safety, precautions, and risks. 

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of ADEM

Early symptoms of ADEM include fever, headaches, nausea, vomiting, irritability, and body malaise – mimicking the manifestations of viral encephalitis. Yet as it develops or worsens, it exhibits neurological symptoms such as the following:

  • Lack of muscle control in the majority of the body;
  • Body fatigue, lethargy, or muscle paralysis; and
  • Partial or full vision loss due to irritation and inflammation of the optic nerve.

As a parent, these flu-like symptoms are usually taken lightly. Oral medications are given to the child to relieve pain, fever, and discomfort. Hence, ADEM is commonly diagnosed late and only when neurological symptoms occur.


Always monitor your child’s health, especially after recovering from a bacterial or viral infection and post-vaccination. Early detection leads to immediate diagnosis and prevents the condition from worsening.

What Are The Treatment Options Available

The fast-paced medical advancements have paved the way for effective treatments to treat ADEM. The initial phase of the treatment program’s primary focus is to treat the myelin sheath’s inflammation. 

To manage bacterial or viral attacks, anti-inflammatory drugs are administered intravenously, followed by oral corticosteroid medications. 

The signs and symptoms may be relieved after a few days of medication therapy. Immunoglobulin therapy and plasmapheresis are also recommended in severe cases. 

A Misconception with MS

Many doctors mistakenly diagnosed ADEM with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a neurological condition affecting the nerve cell’s myelin sheath. However, they differ in some clinical features. ADEM patients may experience loss of consciousness or coma, and MS isn’t likely to occur in children. 

There’s only a one-time attack and destruction of myelin sheath damage in ADEM, while MS is a progressive disease that may or may not relapse. MS patients take lifetime medications to alleviate or delay various signs and symptoms. 


Diagnostic imaging such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) also shows new lesions or scars in MS cases. A misconception with MS can delay ADEM treatment, leading to various serious adverse effects.

Taking All Into Account

Knowledge about ADEM is key to being a wonderful parent. ADEM can be considered an idiopathic disease, a condition with an undetermined cause. Nonetheless, it has been linked to bacterial or viral infections and post-vaccination adverse effects. Further studies are being conducted to understand its target cause and appropriate medical treatment.

You may ask your trusted pediatrician about the probable side effects of vaccination and other diseases even after recovery. Seek immediate medical attention must be given if the child’s feeling ill and very weak.