What is the diagnosis of Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Oct 11, 2012

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Quick Bites

  • Progressive multifocal leukoencephalophathy is a disease of the white matter.
  • It targets the cells which form an oily substance known as the myelin.
  • Number of test are avaiable to diagnose the condition.
  • The goal of the treatment is to strengthen the immune system.

Progressive multifocal leukoencephalophathy is a disease of the white matter of the brain which is caused by a virus infects that targets the cells responsible for the formation of the oily substance known as the myelin that helps the protects the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord.

brain disorder

Majority of people carry a harmless virus called polyomarvirus JC except in those who have lowered immune defences. This rare condition occurs in people who are undergoing chronic corticosteroid or immune suppressive therapy for transplant or may occur in people who have cancer. The biological treatments for some autoimmune conditions like sclerosis, rhemumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erthematosis activates the JC virus leading to the PML.

The condition is commonly found in people who have HIV 1 infection. According to some studies, prior to the effective antiretroviral therapy as many as 5 percent of the HIV 1 infected persons eventually develop PML. But the current treatment involves antiretroviral drugs that help in restoring the immune system function of the body allowing the patients to survive the condition.

Symptoms of the condition

The symptoms of the condition are very diverse as they related to the location and amount of the brain caused by the infection. Some common symptoms of the condition include:

  • Clumsiness
  • Progressive weakness
  • visual speech and personality changes
  • headache
  • Memory loss

MRI of the brain


The condition can be diagnosed by carrying out following tests:

  • Brian biopsy
  • Cerebrospinal fluid test for the JCV
  • CT scan of the brain
  • Electroencephalogram
  • MRI of the brain


The best available therapy for the treatment of PML is reversal of the immune deficient state. For HIV patients the treatment is done to strengthen the immune system of the HIV 1 patients.


Image Courtesy : Getty

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