Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) is a rare disorder that damages the material (myelin) that covers and protects nerves in the white matter of the brain.
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
Loss of coordination, clumsiness
Loss of language ability (aphasia)
Weakness of the legs and arms that gets worse
Signs and tests
Tests may include:
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.
PML is a life-threatening condition. Talk to your doctor about care decisions.
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.
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