Demyelination: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnose and Treatment

Muhammad Usman Babar
4 min readDec 8, 2020


Demyelination is a neurotic manner in which the myelin layer of nerve fibers is destroyed; that is, the cover of neuronal axons. According to the Con la MS foundation, various sclerosis affects about 2.5 million people around the globe, making it the most usual demyelinating disease globally.

The most famous demyelinating disorder of all is multiple sclerosis, but sadly, different conditions can produce disruption of the myelin layer that shields the axons.

Even so, this is not the exclusive pathology associated with the destruction of the protective covering of nerve fibers. Transverse myelitis, optic neuritis, or acute disseminated encephalomyelitis are some further examples of this sort of disease. If you need to understand more about the demyelination process, continue reading this article.

As an article written in the Offarm Magazine shows, a demyelinating disease is any situation that produces damage to the protective layer (the myelin sheath) that encircles the nerve fibers of the brain, the spinal cord, and the optic nerves. This demyelination process can trigger the breakdown of numerous muscles and organs.

Related to the housing of an electrical cable, the myelin sheath circles the axons of neurons and provides the right transmission of the electrical sign to the target. According to the research, when the destruction is slight, myelin can improve itself, a fact that provides the total recovery of nerve function.

Sadly, when damage to this protecting cover is too hard, the unprotected underlying nerve fiber dies. This creates a loss of functionality that frequently happens in patches and that normally affects different areas or organs at the same time.

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General symptoms of demyelination

According to references already mentioned and the RGS Neurosurgery Unit, demyelination should be deemed in any sufferer who sees a neurological deficiency without any underlying reason. Among the most obvious manifestations of demyelinating disorders we find the following:

Motor manifestations (in 35% of patients). As neural tissue is damaged, the sufferer encounters a loss of dexterity, walking difficulties, and spasms.

Sensory manifestations (in 61% of patients). Paresthesia, that is, obstinate tingling of the skin, is very familiar.

Visual disturbances (in 36% of patients). Eye pain and unexpected temporary loss of vision are common symptoms of demyelination.

Mental symptoms (in 40% of patients). These physical signs are normally followed by mild intellectual impairment.


Keep in mind that not just various sclerosis generates demyelination since multiple effects can drive to it. As shown by the specialists stated above, some of the triggering events of this pathology abruptly in adults may be the following:

  • Infections
  • Immune and metabolic disorders
  • Ingestion of poisons and certain medications
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

All of these demyelinating issues happen for an underlying cause and therefore supposed secondary demyelinating diseases. On another level, there are the initial ones, that is, of an undiscovered cause, such as the following pathologies:

Optic neuritis: Demyelination and inflammation of the central nervous system, particularly the optic nerves. This creates harsh eye pain and unexpected loss of vision.

Multiple sclerosis: it is the most frequent demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system. In this case, the sufferer’s personal immune system strikes the myelin sheaths and destroys them.

Transverse myelitis: Inflammation of the spinal cord.

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Diagnoses of demyelination

On the evidence of a particular case collected in research published in a professional journal, the potential diagnostic techniques to characterize an episode of demyelination:

By image

Magnetic resonance imaging is the most dependable technique for detecting a demyelinating disease. This kind of approach can show tumors in the brain and spinal cord, a factor that helps the diagnostic suspicion of neuronal destruction due to reduction of myelin.

Cerebrospinal fluid study

Also named lumbar puncture; In this case, a sample of cerebrospinal fluid was eliminated from the spinal canal and examined in a laboratory. Irregularities in the antibodies in this fluid may show demyelinating disease.

Blood test

Mainly, you can perform blood tests to rule out another underlying condition that could be mistaken for various sclerosis. The ubiquity of poisons in the body, certain diseases, or the consumption of some drugs can drive to demyelination. These irregularities, recognized with a blood test.

Evoked potential tests

It is a kind of non-invasive test, based on the position of electrodes, that studies neuronal electrical activity. Through this kind of method, you can confirm that the nervous system is working correctly.

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Available treatments for demyelination

Sadly, there is no remedy for demyelinating diseases. The possible treatments are based on reducing the effects of the attacks, lessen the development of the disease, and controlling the symptoms of the sick patient. These are some of the procedures to follow:

Modifying treatments: they can lessen the development of the disease and decrease the number of tumors seen on MRI. Various active ingredients in the form of medications are in this class.

Treatment of flare-ups: a corticosteroid-based method could fight, to some extent, the nerve pain caused during demyelination. This would permit the sufferer to speed up the flare period and decrease the healing time after it.

Symptom treatment: concentrated on addressing the most typical clinical symptoms, such as loss of vision, fatigue, or motor incoordination.

Rehabilitation: accomplish health and social actions (housing, education, work) to reducing the functional deficit, obtain maximum recovery, and favoring the patient’s autonomy. It is as essential as drug treatment.

Final recommendations

As you have noticed, not all demyelination processes are due to pathologies such as multiple sclerosis, because several events can commence damaging to the myelin layers. The diagnosis of the sufferer will depend, completely, on the underlying causative agent of the process.

Unluckily, basic demyelinating diseases are hard to address. The only remedy today is based on delaying the development of the pathology and, if potential, on easing the symptoms experienced by the sufferer.

Originally published at on December 8, 2020.