Banner image
MS Kids
print        

What is demyelination?

  • Demyelination  (de-myelin-ation), is an 'attack' by the immune system on the myelin covering the nerves in the brain, optic nerves, or spine.
  • Our brain contains thousands of cells called neurons. Neurons send signals from our brain to different parts of our body, just like an electrical wire. For example, when you want to walk, your brain sends a message to your legs.
  • Demyelination occurs when the immune cells attack and injure myelin. When this happens neurons are not able to send signals as before. For example, if the part of the brain that sends signals to your legs is affected by demyelination, the message may not reach your legs and it will be hard to walk.
  • Demyelination can occur as a one-time illness, or it may be a relapsing, chronic disease.
  • MS is one type of  chronic demyelinating disease.

 demyelinating neuron 

What causes demyelination?

  • Demyelination is thought to be an abnormal immune system reaction, causing the patient’s own immune cells to attack the myelin coating in the CNS. But the reason that the immune system reacts this way is still  unknown.