Any disease that results in the breakdown of the myelin sheath, which is the protective covering surrounding the nerve cells in the central nervous system. This impairs the electrical conductance of nerve signals and can result in neurological disorders. The most common demyelinating disease is Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
The symptoms of demyelinating diseases vary depending on the region of the brain containing the impacted neurones. Symptoms may impact vision, movement, sensation and cognitive abilities. This may include blurred vision, walking difficulties, difficulties with problem solving and learning, numbness, and muscle deficiencies.
The cause of demyelinating disease varies depending on the type of disease. Demyelinating diseases can be categorised into two groups whereby external substances destroy healthy myelin, or whereby demyelination is caused by premature myelin degeneration due to abnormal formation of healthy myelin. Such external substances that destroy healthy myelin include chemicals such as organophosphates, toxins, autoimmune attacks, and viral infections.
Currently, treatment for demyelinating disease is extremely limited. There is currently no cure for demyelinating diseases, with treatments focusing on easing symptoms and preventing relapse.