There are four classic symptoms of transverse myelitis (TM). Patients may have only one symptom, or a combination of the following:
Weakness of the legs and/or arms: Some patients report stumbling, dragging one foot or notice that both legs seem heavier than normal. Depending on the level of involvement within the spinal cord, coordination or strength in the hands and arms may also be affected.
Sensory alteration: Patients who are experiencing altered sensitivity usually report numbness, tingling, coldness or burning. Up to 80% of patients experience heightened sensitivity to touch. Some even report that wearing clothes or a light touch with a finger causes significant pain.
Pain: Up to half of those with TM report pain as the first symptom of the disorder. It can be localized to the back, or appear as sharp, shooting pain that radiates down the legs, arms or around the torso. Loss of the ability to experience pain or temperature sensitivity is one of the most common sensory changes.
Bowel and bladder dysfunction: Some patients report bowel or bladder dysfunction as their first symptom of TM. This may mean an increased frequency or urge to urinate or defecate, incontinence, difficulty voiding, and sensation of incomplete evacuation or constipation.