Types Of Demyelinating Disorder: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Demyelinating disorder is a neurological disease in which there is disruption of myelin sheath. In a normal human being, both peripheral and central nervous system is wrapped with a sheath of fatty layer called myelin. Myelin sheath acts in a similar way as an insulation around the electric wire. It helps in conduction of nerve impulses from one nerve cell to another with speed and accuracy.

In demyelinating disorder due to damage to the myelin sheath the impulses from one nerve cell to another become slow and abnormal, or stops completely. This may lead to various neurological problems such as lowered sensation, impaired vision, muscle weakness, paralysis, bladder and stool incontinence, burning and tingling, extreme fatigue, etc depending on the which nerve is involved.

Various factors are responsible for demyelinating disorders which include genetics, infection, autoimmune condition, and environmental toxins. One of the most common examples of demyelinating disorder is multiple sclerosis. There is no cure for demyelinating diseases; therefore the aim of treatment is to improve the quality of patient’s life by managing the symptoms.

Causes Of Demyelinating Disease

Demyelinating disorder is caused due to damage or destruction of myelin sheath. It is a sheath which insulates and protects the brain, spinal cord and the peripheral nerves. Once the myelin covering is destroyed, transmission of impulses from one nerve cell to another slowdown or completely stop.

There are several causes that are known to damage myelin sheath.

  • In some cases it can be a genetic issue. Infection, especially viral infection can be another reason.
  • Certain demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis are caused by autoimmune response.
  • Environmental toxins such as pesticides and chemicals are also suspected to harm the myelin covering.

Types Of Demyelinating Diseases

  • Multiple sclerosis: One of the most common demyelinating disorders is multiple sclerosis. In this disorder, the immune system of body destroys myelin covering from various areas. Injury to the sheath can affect the nerve fibers and may cause scarring which ultimately results in neurological disability. It is more common in young adults.
  • Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM): It is also inflammatory demyelinating disease of central nervous system. It often develops after systemic viral infection or following vaccination with an antirabies vaccine. The condition can develop after measles, herpes zoster, and infectious mononeucliosis.
  • Optic neuritis: When the myelin covering of optic nerve is damaged the condition that results is called optic neuritis.
  • Transverse myelitis: Inflammation and damage to spinal cord due to damage to myelin sheath.

Symptoms Of Demyelinating Disorders

The symptoms depend on the type of demyelinating disorder. Further, the symptoms also vary of those that are caused due to involvement of brain and spinal cord or simply restricted to peripheral nervous nerves. Some of the symptoms that may occur in demyelinating disease are:

  • Weakness in limbs
  • Paralysis
  • Fatigue
  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Double vision
  • Frequent paralysis of facial muscles.
  • Unsteady gait due to weakness in legs and leg muscles.
  • Stool and urine incontinence.
  • Burning, tingling, sensation in various part of body.
  • Speech and hearing disability.
  • Failure of erection and loss of sensation in genital area.
  • Twitching and jerking movement worse of movement.

Often the initial symptoms are mild and relapsing, but may get aggravated by physical strain, infection of injury.

Treatment Options For Demyelinating Disorders

There is no cure for demyelinating disorder; most of the treatment is supportive. The main aim of treatment is to improve the quality of life of a patient. This may be possible by taking steps in reducing the attacks, and slowing of the progression of demyelination.

There are many types of disease modifying agents available to reduce the frequency and severity of relapses.
Steroids are also used in some cases to reduce the severity of disease. Spasms of muscles are symptomatically treated with muscle relaxant medicines.

  • With gradual deterioration of heath, patient may have to use canes, foot braces, and walkers to maintain mobility.
  • Patient should take enough rest and avoid too much heat to reduce fatigue.
  • Patient should quit smoking, alcohol drinks, too much of tea and coffee and other aerated drinks. Prefer eating foods and vegetables that are grown by using organic manure and free from pesticides.
  • Certain homeopathic drugs such as Gelsemium, Causticum, Arg-nitricum, Nux-vom, Nat-mur are useful in multiple sclerosis.