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Demyelinating disease: What causes it?By Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/demyelinating-disease/AN00564
- With Mayo Clinic neurologist
Jerry W. Swanson, M.D.read biographyclose window
Jerry W. Swanson, M.D.Jerry W. Swanson, M.D.
Dr. Jerry Swanson is a board-certified neurologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He is also board certified in headache medicine and is a professor of neurology at College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic. He has a special interest in medical education.
Dr. Swanson, a Lacon, Ill., native, was appointed to the Mayo Clinic staff in 1982 and works in the Department of Neurology with more than 90 other physicians. He formerly chaired the department's Division of Headache and continues to work with headache subspecialists around the world. He has published and lectured widely on headache disorders. He also serves as assistant dean for assessment at Mayo Medical School.
"In a manner similar to the printing press, Internet technology enables the unprecedented ability to communicate with the global community about health information," Dr. Swanson says. "There is no doubt that the knowledgeable individual contributes greatly to his or her own health care, and now we can share information much more widely.
"There is much information already available about health care on the Internet. Unfortunately, much of it is not founded on sound principles. It is exciting to be a part of the web team and contribute to the creation of a reliable and timely health resource."
Dr. Swanson is the neurology editor for "Mayo Clinic Family Health Book" and has reviewed articles for "Mayo Clinic Health Letter" and "Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource." He is also editor-in-chief of the "Mayo Clinic on Headache" book, published in 2004. In 2008 the magazine Women's Health named him one of America's Top Doctors for Women. In 2011 he received the Mayo Medical School Dean's Recognition Award for his contributions to undergraduate medical education.
Demyelinating disease: What causes it?
What is the cause of demyelinating disease and what can you do about it?
from Jerry W. Swanson, M.D.
A demyelinating disease is any condition that results in damage to the protective covering (myelin sheath) that surrounds nerve fibers in your brain and spinal cord. When the myelin sheath is damaged, nerve impulses slow or even stop, causing neurological problems.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common demyelinating disease. In this disorder, your immune system attacks the myelin sheath or the cells that produce and maintain it. This causes inflammation and injury to the sheath and ultimately to the nerve fibers that it surrounds, and may result in multiple areas of scarring (sclerosis).
Other types of demyelinating disease and their causes include:
- Optic neuritis — inflammation of the optic nerve in one or both eyes
- Devic disease (neuromyelitis optica) — inflammation of the optic nerve and spinal cord
- Transverse myelitis — inflammation of the spinal cord
- Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis — inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Adrenoleukodystrophy and adrenomyeloneuropathy — rare, inherited metabolic disorders
MS and other demyelinating diseases may result in vision or hearing loss, headache, seizures, muscle spasms and weakness, loss of coordination, paralysis, and loss of sensation.
No cures exist for demyelinating diseases and their progression, and symptoms are different for everyone. Getting treatment early is important. Treatment focuses on:
- Minimizing the effects of the attacks
- Modifying the course of the disease
- Managing the symptoms
A variety of drug therapies are recommended depending on your specific disorder. These may include medications that decrease the frequency of new lesion formation. Strategies to treat symptoms include physical therapy, muscle relaxing drugs, and medications to reduce pain and fatigue. Talk with your doctor about the best course of treatment for your specific disorder.
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