A.D.E.M., Acute Demyelinating EncephaloMyelitis, is an autoimmune disease involving inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.

The word 'Encephalomyelitis' is formed from the two words 'encephalitis' (inflammation of the brain) and 'myelitis' (inflammation of the spinal cord).


Autoimmune diseases confuse the body's immune system. Instead of fighting against bacteria or viruses, it attacks healthy cells and tissues. It involves an attack of inflammation (swelling) in the brain and spinal cord that damages the brain's myelin. Myelin is the protective covering of nerve fibers.

Myelin is also called white matter due to its color. Because ADEM affects myelin, it is a type of a "demyelinating" disorder.

Although ADEM can occur at any age, children are more likely than adults to have it. 



The symptoms of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) come on quickly. The patient may feel tired or irritable at first. Other symptoms may include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • headache
  • confusion
  • weakness
  • ataxia (unsteady walk)
  • sensory changes, including numbness or tingling
  • optic neuritis (trouble with vision)
  • seizures

The location of the inflammation (swelling) within the brain and spinal cord determines what symptoms occur.



The main medication that is used for acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is called methylprednisolone (Solu-medrol®).


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