Multiple sclerosis is a demyelinating disease. But what exactly is that? Basically, it's any disease of the nervous system where the myelin sheath of a neuron or nerve cell is damaged. MS is one disease that falls into this category.
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Believe it or not, there are many more diseases that cause demyelination. Also, the nervous system has two parts – the central nervous system or CNS and the peripheral nervous system or PNS. Both of these can be effected by demyelination.
The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord. The PNS connects the central nervous system to the limbs and organs of your body. It consists of all the nerves that extend out from the spinal cord. This is how the signals from the brain travel to every part of your body telling your hand to grip or your leg to walk for example.
Multiple sclerosis effects the nerves of the CNS not the PNS. There are also demyelinating diseases that only effect the PNS.
Diseases of the CNS
Diseases of the PNS
Demyelination is the effect of the above diseases. The causes of the different diseases can be many different things. As far as MS is concerned, most believe it is an autoimmune reaction to something like a virus. This causes the immune system to attack itself. Nerve cells are attacked by white blood cells causing damage to the myelin sheath.
This in turn causes all sorts of symptoms depending on which nerves are damaged. When the nerves in the CNS are damaged, you will develop something like MS or Devic's disease. It takes a neurologist and a thorough neurological exam to determine the exact cause of your problems.
This exam will most likely consist of several kinds of tests to track down the exact cause of your symptoms. Even then, it still may be difficult to determine which demyelinating disease you have.
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