Myelin is a medical term used to describe the protective covering around nerve cells that acts as an insulator, and myelin disorders are conditions that result from damage to this protective sheath and can have a variety of causes. Some of the most common types of myelin disorders include multiple sclerosis, optic neuritis, and Devic disease. Canavan disease, Krabbe disease, and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease are additional examples of disorders that affect the myelin. Any individualized questions or concerns about specific myelin disorders should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.
Multiple sclerosis and optic neuritis are among the most common types of myelin disorders. In many cases, multiple sclerosis is progressive and can eventually cause permanent damage to the nerves themselves in addition to the myelin. Symptoms may include pain, fatigue, and muscle weakness. Optic neuritis is a term used to describe inflammation of the optic nerve and may lead to vision loss and pain. As is the case with all myelin disorders, there is no cure, so treatment consists of managing each individual symptom as it develops.
Devic disease is similar in many ways to multiple sclerosis and involves inflammation of the optic nerve as well as the spinal cord. Blindness, paralysis, and urinary or bowel incontinence are possible complications of this disorder. Canavan disease is also among the possible myelin disorders. This is a type of birth defect in which the myelin sheath does not develop properly. Possible symptoms of Canavan disease include abnormal muscle tone, mental retardation, or hearing loss.
Krabbe disease is a rare inherited disorder that causes the myelin sheath and brain cells to be slowly destroyed. This disease is typically found among infants, and symptoms may include unexplained fevers, irritability, and seizures. Muscle weakness and slowed physical and mental development are also common among those with this disease. Most patients who are affected by this disease in infancy will not survive past the age of two years.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a relatively common inherited neurological disorder. The ability to walk, speak, or breathe may be compromised in those born with this disease. Muscle weakness, foot deformities, and pain also frequently occur. The symptoms of this disease tend to progress as the child gets older, and each symptom is treated individually as it begins to cause problems for the patient. Physical therapy or supportive devices such as braces may help to prevent or delay the necessity for more invasive treatment methods, such as surgical intervention.