Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy

Toggle: English / Spanish

Definition

Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) is a rare disorder that damages the material (

) that covers and protects nerves in the .

Alternative Names

PML

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The JC virus (JCV) causes PML. By age 10, most people have been infected with this virus. But it hardly ever causes symptoms. Persons with a weakened immune system, though, are at risk of developing PML. Causes of a weakened immune system include:

  • AIDS (less common now because of better AIDS treatments)
  • Certain medicines used to treat multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and related conditions
  • Leukemia and lymphoma

Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Loss of coordination, clumsiness
  • Loss of language ability (aphasia)
  • Memory loss
  • Vision problems
  • Weakness of the legs and arms that gets worse

Signs and tests

Tests may include:

Treatment

In people with AIDS, treatment to strengthen the immune system can lead to recovery from the symptoms of PML. No other treatments have proved effective for PML.

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

PML is a life-threatening condition. Talk to your doctor about care decisions.

Complications

Calling your health care provider

Prevention

References

Tan CS, Koralnik IJ. JC, BK, and other polyomaviruses: progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill-Livingstone; 2009:chap 145.

Weissert R. Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. Journal of Neuroimmunology. 2011; 231 (1): 73-77.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 2/27/2013
  • Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery, Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles and Department of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch)

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

This page was last updated: May 20, 2014

         
Average rating (14)