Demyelinating Disease

Also known as: demyelination, demyelinating diseases of the brain, ADEM (acute disseminated encephalomyelitis), MS (multiple sclerosis), Optic neuritis, NMO (Neuromyelitis optica), ATM (acute transverse myelitis).

What is demyelinating disease?

The myelin sheath is a protective fatty material that wraps, protects and insulates the nerve fibers of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. It enables brain signals to travel quickly along nerves to the rest of the body. Any disease that causes damage to the myelin sheath that slows or stops nerve signals is called a demyelinating disease. There are a number of demyelinating diseases in childhood, of which Pediatric Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an uncommon one.


What causes demyelinating disease? 

Causes are multifactorial and include genetic, postinfectious, post-immunization, and autoimmune (the body produces proteins which damage its own tissue).


What are the symptoms of demyelinating disease? 

There are many common clinical, radiological and laboratory features and a wide variation in the way each particular disease presents, develops, which and how many nerves are involved, and whether the process fluctuates (gets better than worse again) or not.   Symptoms of demyelinating disease can include muscle weakness, muscle spasms, loss of coordination, pain, vision loss, changes in bladder and bowel function and other problems.


What are demyelinating disease care options?

No cure exists for demyelinating diseases; early recognition, supportive care and early treatment with medications may help minimize and manage symptoms. Rehabilitation therapies are of particular importance.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 6/12/2018 9:40:30 AM

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