Our brain and spinal column are the control center of our body. If these become damaged or altered, it can affect us in a variety of ways. With modern technology, our understanding of these effects is never-ending...

Neurological Autoimmune Diseases

An autoimmune disease is one in which the immune system, which has the task of defending the body from foreign substances, attacks the tissues of the body, mistaking them to be foreign tissues. This leads to abnormalities in development and growth of organs, destruction of healthy body tissues and other severe problems. Autoimmune diseases also occur in the central nervous system, wherein the immune system attacks the central nervous system, comprising of the brain, spinal cord and the nerves that connect the various body parts to the brain. The most common among the neurological autoimmune diseases are Myasthenia Gravis and Multiple Sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis:

This is a chronic inflammation of the central nervous system.

  • The Myelin sheath that surrounds and protects the nerve cells is destroyed, leading to interruption in the transmission of nervous signals to and from the brain. This process, called demyelination, results in damage of the nerves, impairing their ability to conduct nerve impulses.
  • Demyelination may occur in various parts of the central nervous system hat control various functions of the body, leading to disorders of the various systems.
  • The symptoms seen in the muscles include loss of balance, lack of coordination, weakness, numbness, difficulty in walking, etc. Symptoms in other parts of the body vary from bowel and bladder dysfunction to pain, depression, and emotional changes to memory loss to loss of ability to make decisions.

Myasthenia Gravis:

Myasthenia gravis is one of the most common chronic disorders of the neurological autoimmune diseases category.

  • It attacks the voluntary muscles of the body and also the nerves that control these parts. There is a severe weakness of muscles that gets worse with continued activity and can improve with periods of rest.
  • There is defective transmission of nervous impulses to the limbs and the brain.
  • Some of the commonly seen symptoms are difficulty in simple tasks such as talking, walking, breathing, swallowing, lifting objects, paralysis, and also fatigue.

Other Neurological Autoimmune Diseases:

  • There are a number of other neurological autoimmune diseases that are not seen or heard of very commonly. In the Guillian-Barre syndrome, the myelin sheaths of the nerves of the peripheral nervous system are all destroyed. These damaged nerves are unable to transmit nervous impulses to the body parts and to the central nervous system. This results in muscles weakness and can even cause paralysis at times.
  • The rare chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy is a neurological autoimmune diseases resulting form swelling of the roots of nerves and from the destruction of the myelin sheaths of the nerve cells. The symptoms include impairment of motor function, fatigue, muscle weakness, paralysis and a lot more.
  • Tranverse myelitis is another of the rare neurological autoimmune diseases caused by the inflammation of the spinal cord, resulting in back pain, bladder problems, and weakness and bowels problems.

The exact cause of these nervous autoimmune diseases is not yet known. Some are said to be hereditary but the genes alone cannot be held responsible for causing these disorders. There may also bee environmental factors such as bacteria, virus, fungi and toxins that ca cause inflammation and demyelination.