It is very difficult to diagnose ADEM, as it is characterized by an attack of inflammation of the myelin sheath (white fatty brain matter that overlays the nerve fibers), which is the same as multiple sclerosis. The brain magnetic resonance imaging test results and damage appearance of the myelin will be similar in both ADEM and MS, but it is important to note that while the symptoms are similar, there are some differences.
The quick onset of fever will be the first sign of ADEM, with a medical history of bacterial or viral infection or recent MMR vaccination. ADEM normally only consists of a one-time attack on the myelin sheath with known damage, while MS presents with multiple attacks.
MRI results will present myelin sheath old and new lesions, which show signs of current attacks of MS. ADEM is more often seen in children, whereas MS is more often diagnosed in adults. Sometimes the MRI results and symptoms will be so similar that a brain biopsy will be required to differentiate between the two disorders.
ADEM requires treatment that will suppress inflammation with IV corticosteroids (methylprednisolone) and followed up with oral corticosteroids.
ADEM can be treated successfully and recovery should begin within days and up to 6 months. Many victims of ADEM will suffer from long-term disabilities and impairments including:
- Cognitive impairments
- Vision loss or blindness
It has been determined that children that suffer from a bout of ADEM, they may co on the develop multiple sclerosis at some point in their life (NINDS). It cannot be determined, which children are at risk.
There are currently several medical researches ongoing to find effective ways to prevent ADEM.