Numbness, loss of reflexes, uncoordinated movements, blurred vision and memory problems are symptoms of demyelination, or damage to the myelin sheaths around nerves, notes Healthline. Nerves do not function properly when myelin wears away or is damaged, and demyelination plays a part in several serious illnesses, with multiple sclerosis being the most common.
Myelin sheaths are layers of membranes that protect the axons in cells that send messages between neurons and connect neurons to other cells, such as muscles, states Healthline. When myelin is damaged, axons may become deteriorated, greatly slowing down the transmission of nerve signals. When this occurs, people can have trouble with seeing, hearing, thinking clearly, feeling and moving properly. Inflammation is the primary cause of myelin damage, though infections, metabolic problems, oxygen loss and compression also may lead to damage.
Conditions such as multiple sclerosis and acute-disseminated encephalomyelitis are linked to inflammatory demyelination in which the body's immune system attacks the myelin in the brain and spinal cord, according to Healthline. Infections, metabolic damage to myelin due to alcoholism, liver damage and electrolyte imbalances, and oxygen deprivation or vascular diseases of the brain can lead to viral demyelination. There is no cure for diseases linked to demyelination,as of 2015.