What the heck is a demyelinating disease?

The case of the mysterious tingling leg solved….

My EKG was fine.  My EMG was fine.  A blood test showed that my cholesterol was starting to creep up, but basically it was fine.  I went back to my doctor with the expectation that the MRI that I had just had of my neck would also show that everything was fine.  I expected a continuation of the unsolved mystery of my tingling leg.

Except that it wasn’t fine.  The MRI revealed two problems.  Somehow I had developed arthritis in my neck and the second had to do with my nerve cells.  The doctor said that some of the cells “had changed”.  I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.  He grilled me repeatedly asking  if I had suffered any injury to my neck that could have caused this.  I hadn’t.  The report suggested that I have an MRI performed of my brain as well and I left the doctor’s office to go schedule that.

On my way home, I read the copy of the MRI report.  It made reference to evidence of something called demyelinating disease.  Having no idea what that was, the first thing that I did when I got home was to go online and look it up.  Myelin is a sheath or coating on the nerve cells.  With a demyelinating disease, this myelin is damaged.  It could be caused by a variety of things such as exposure to certain chemicals or genetics.  In the case of MS it is believed that an individual’s own immune system attacks the myelin.  This creates problems because the myelin plays a key role in the conduction of the electrical signals through the nervous system.  Damaged myelin inhibits the flow of the signals and can cause sensations (like my tingling leg), lack of coordination, problems with eyesight and numerous other symptoms.

Now we knew what was causing the tingling leg.  The next step was to figure out what was causing the demyelination and what, if anything, to do about it.  It was back to the imaging center for an MRI of my brain.

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