What is Balo Disease?
Balo Disease is a pathological condition of the brain in which the myelin sheath, a structure which protects the nerve fibers gets destroyed. This condition is quite similar to Multiple Sclerosis which also damages the myelin sheath in the brain. Myelin is extremely important for the neurological system to function as it protects the nerve fibers which carry instructions to and from the brain to the spinal cord and if the myelin gets damaged then the instructions from the brain to the spinal cord are not able to be carried effectively which causes a variety of neurological symptoms.
Balo Disease is quite common to Multiple Sclerosis and is also considered to a subtype of this disease but there are certain differences between Multiple Sclerosis and Balo Disease which have been delineated below.
How is Balo Disease Different from Multiple Sclerosis?
Balo Disease is considered to be a subtype of Multiple Sclerosis as they both damage the myelin sheath but the way that Balo Disease damages the myelin sheath and the way Multiple Sclerosis damages the myelin sheath is different and this is the classic difference between Balo Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.
What Causes Balo Disease?
There is no known cause of Balo Disease, although some studies point to an autoimmune cause to the development of this condition. Autoimmune disorders are pathological conditions of the immune system in which antibodies produced by the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the healthy cells of the body and damages vital structures of the body.
What are the Risk Factors for Balo Disease?
Some of the factors which may put an individual at risk for Balo Disease are:
- A family history of autoimmune diseases
- Having a direct family member, especially a parent, with this condition
- Balo Disease is mostly seen in Filipinos and Asians
- Gender and age is not considered as a risk factor for Balo Disease but this condition is mostly seen in adults.
What are the Symptoms of Balo Disease?
Some of the symptoms of Balo Disease are:
- Frequent bouts of muscle aches and spasms
- Problems with speaking
- Paralysis in some cases
- Frequent headaches
- Memory loss
- Problems with focusing and remembering things
- Depression in some cases due to the above symptoms.
How Balo Disease progresses is quite variable and differs from individual to individual. In some individual, there may be only attack of symptoms of this condition whereas in some individuals there may be an attack of symptoms followed by a symptom free period or a period of remission and then another attack, in other words a relapsing remitting type of Balo Disease.
How is Balo Disease Diagnosed?
If an individual presents with the symptoms mentioned above, then the physician will order an MRI of the brain. This will clearly show places of demyelination or places where the myelin has been damaged. Thus a diagnosis of a demyelinating disease gets confirmed. On a closer look of the MRI of the brain if the damaged myelin is in the form of circular rings then it gives clinching evidence and confirms the diagnosis of Balo Disease. To further confirm the diagnosis the physician may order
- Lumbar punctures
- Mobility tests
- Neurological examination
- Evoked potential test to see whether there has been any damage to the central nervous system to confirm the diagnosis of Balo’s Disease.
How is Balo Disease Treated?
As of now, there is no treatment for Balo Disease and there are no medications specific to treat this condition. The initial front line treatment for Balo Disease is with steroids so as to decrease the inflammation and hence reduce the damage to the myelin sheath. The symptoms experienced by Balo’s Disease patient such as muscle weakness and spasms and memory loss can be helped by the specialists dealing with these conditions. Speech therapy is also very helpful with an individual with Balo Disease who has problems speaking while the muscle weakness and spasms can be addressed by a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist. All in all, an individual with relapsing symptoms of Balo Disease may end up being completely disabled or even succumb to this condition within months of the diagnosis while in some cases an individual can survive for years with spontaneous remission of symptoms.
What is the Prognosis of Balo Disease?
As there is no cure for Balo Disease, the prognosis is somewhat guarded. As mentioned above, some patients may get disabled or even succumb to this disease within months of the diagnosis while in some cases there has been spontaneous remission and the patient survives without having much symptoms at all of Balo Disease.