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Symptoms and Signs of Myelin Sheath (In Multiple Sclerosis)

Doctor's Notes on Myelin Sheath and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Myelin sheaths are coatings (nerve insulators) that protect and insulate nerve cells; it is a fatty material containing proteins – the coating prevents nerve impulses from entering and/or escaping the nerve except at their appropriate sites. In multiple sclerosis, myelin sheaths are disrupted or destroyed leaving nerves unprotected and obtaining and/or sending nerve pulses inappropriately or not getting or sending any. Over time, scar formation (sclerosis) occurs that further disrupts nerve signals. Myelin sheath damage in multiple sclerosis may vary in people, but usually produce one or more of the following signs and symptoms: Weakness and fatigue, vision problems, walking and balance problems, libido problems, pain, bowel and bladder problems cognition problems and various emotional changes like mood swings, irritability, uncontrollable crying or laughing.

The cause of myelin sheath damage and destruction is the body’s immune system that inappropriately attack the sheaths (likely the protein[s] in myelin) and expose the nerves fibers so they cannot function normally. Scar formation further disrupts nerve signals.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Myelin Sheath and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Symptoms

When the sheath is destroyed, the transmission of nerve impulses is impaired. Messages do not get through quickly and clearly from the brain to the correct body part. The more sheath is destroyed, the slower and less efficient the nerve impulses are. Depending on the severity of the immune system attack, the nerve fibers themselves may be damaged or destroyed. Damage to nerve fibers may play an important role in determining how severe disability in MS may become.

When the brain nerves do not communicate well with nerves from other areas of the central nervous system (brainstem or spinal cord) or cannot relay information to nerves that exit these structures (peripheral nervous system), the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, which vary by stage, but may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Vision problems
  • Weakness
  • Problems walking
  • Dizziness and balance problems
  • Problems with libido (sexual drive)
  • Pain
  • Bowel bowel and bladder problems
  • Changes in cognition
  • Emotional problems (mood swings, irritability, uncontrollable laughing or crying)

Myelin Sheath and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Causes

In diseases like MS (multiple sclerosis), T cells from the body's own immune system attack and destroy the myelin sheath, leaving the nerve cell fibers unprotected.

T cells from the body's own immune system attack and destroy the myelin sheath
T cells from the body's own immune system attack and destroy the myelin sheath.

Multiple Sclerosis Making an MS Friendly Home Slideshow

Multiple Sclerosis Making an MS Friendly Home Slideshow

If you have multiple sclerosis, it may be harder to move and get around, even at home. Adults with MS commonly suffer from mobility problems, impaired balance, and other symptoms that increase the risk of falls and other injuries. Over a six-month period, about half of middle-aged and older adults with MS experience at least one fall. Identifying and eliminating potential hazards in the home is one way to prevent the risk of falls and other injuries.

One good starting point is to eliminate clutter. This includes clutter on desks, countertops, tables, and floors. Go through your things. What do you really need to keep? What can you toss or donate? Fall prevention involves keeping walking paths clear so you can walk around as easily as possible. Clutter on the floor is a tripping hazard and may lead to falls. Wearing flat or low-heeled shoes is also a good idea.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.