Demyelination occurs when the protective coating of nerve cells, known as myelin, is damaged. When this happens, neurological problems can occur.
In this article, we take a look at diseases that cause demyelination, the symptoms that may develop, and what can be done about them.
What are demyelinating diseases?
Neuron network dysmyelinating diseases
Demyelinating diseases damage the coatings of nerve cells.
Many of the nerve fibers in the nervous system are coated with a fatty white substance called myelin. These myelin sheaths allow electrical impulses to be transmitted along the nerve cells quickly and efficiently.
How well these impulses are conducted determines how smoothly and quickly a person can perform everyday movements with little conscious effort.
Some diseases cause damage to these protective myelin sheaths, which may cause problems in the brain, eyes, and spinal cord. These conditions are known as "demyelinating diseases."
Typically, demyelinating diseases can affect:
reflexes and movement
how often someone needs to use the bathroom
People who experience any of these symptoms may also experience persistent exhaustion that does not appear to have a particular cause.
People with a demyelinating disease may experience blurred vision, a loss of vision, "double vision," or they may feel like their vision is swinging back and forth.
Some people may also experience weakness in their limbs and the trunk of their body, or have problems balancing. In addition, the muscles might contract, causing stiffness or tightness and interfering with movement and speech.
People may also experience spikes in blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat due to an overreacting nervous system.
Some people may experience numbness, burning, or prickling sensations in their arms, legs, or feet. They may also feel pain when touched lightly.
Some people with a demyelinating disease, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), get a symptom called Lhermitte's sign. This feels like an electric shock that passes down the back of the neck into the spine and then out through the arms and legs.
Symptoms related to the brain
Demyelinating diseases brain symptoms
Demyelinating diseases can lead to memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and cognition issues.
People with a demyelinating disease can also experience tremor or incoordination. At times, actions such as swallowing, writing, eating, and walking can become difficult.
Memory, concentration, attention, and processing speed can all be affected by demyelinating diseases.
People with demyelinating diseases commonly experience depression, anxiety, and irritability.