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Autoimmune diseases confuse the body's immune system. Instead of fighting against bacteria or viruses, it attacks healthy cells and tissues.
In ADEM, the immune system reacts against the brain and spinal cord. Autoimmunity is not contagious, but may be genetic (inherited from parents).
ADEM may also follow a vaccination, although this is rare. In some cases of ADEM, a specific trigger/cause cannot be identified.
The location of the inflammation (swelling) within the brain and spinal cord determines what symptoms occur.
Although the long-term prognosis for children with ADEM varies, most children make a complete or nearly complete recovery, including those children with initially severe symptoms.
For most children, recovery begins within days and continues for up to one year. Some patients can have residual symptoms such as blurred vision, weakness or numbness.
If you notice changes in your child's school performance, it is important to let your doctors and nurses know so that they can work with the school to develop an educational plan.
It is not known why patients develop ADEM with certain infections at certain times. If you notice symptoms during an infection that you think are unusual, such as confusion, changes in vision, weakness, numbness or imbalance, it is important to notify your child's doctor immediately.
Your child's neurologist will check your child's brain function and perform a follow-up MRI.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”