Gliosis means the “fibrous proliferation of glial cells”. Basically, it’s when scar tissue forms in the central nervous system (CNS).
This happens in response to injury or disease. The process usually takes place over several days.
It’s the body’s way of protecting itself from further damage. In some cases, it helps, and in others, it causes more damage.
Overview of Gliosis
As we mentioned, gliosis what happens when glial cells rapidly divide in response to an injury.
This process has the potential to both help and hurt the body. The body does this to protect itself from unhealthy neurons.
This causes an inflammation response which eventually leads to scarring. It can be problematic whenever the scarring doesn’t stop. This affects surrounding neurons that are otherwise healthy.
What Are the Symptoms of Gliosis?
Gliosis can occur in any part of the central nervous system. When it happens, a variety of symptoms can occur.
For example, some patients may experience tingling and nothing else, while others experience chronic weakness.
It depends on the area of the brain where the proliferation is happening. Once the glial cells have collected all the dead/damaged neurons, glial scars are left behind.
These scars are designed to protect the healthy neurons from the unhealthy ones. Gliosis is a response that we have no control over.
If it happens in the occipital lobe, then this can result in the patient losing their ability to see. The occipital lobe is the visual processing center of the brain.
What Causes Gliosis?
Any form of injury that affects the CNS can trigger gliosis. Soon after the damage has occurred, the process begins.
Over the course of a few days, scar tissue begins to form. After a stroke for example, this process occurs as a response to the death of neurons.
It can also be caused by multiple sclerosis. It can be seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease as well as other nervous system-related diseases.
Basically, it’s a process heavily associated with neurodegenerative diseases.
Why is Gliosis Important?
Without gliosis, the body wouldn’t have an effective way of preventing healthy cells from associating with unhealthy cells.
The barrier created during this process is designed to prevent this. Following an injury to the CNS, the body must have an effective way of isolating the damaged cells.
The barrier can take a few days to a few weeks to fully form. It depends on the scale of the original injury.
What Are Glial Cells?
By now you may be wondering what a glial cell is. Glial cells are found in the nervous system and are non-neuronal in nature.
They are there to maintain homeostasis, which includes protecting the brain after an injury. Depending on their location in the nervous system, they have different names.
For instance, a glial cell in the CNS is called an “astrocyte” while a glial cell in the peripheral nervous system is called a “Schwann cell”. Take note that gliosis happens in the central nervous system.
Can Gliosis Be Treated?
Remember that this isn’t a disease per se. It’s a symptom. For this reason, the only way to treat it will be to treat the underlying cause.
The scarring formed during this process is often associated with neurodegenerative diseases and CNS injury. So, to successfully treat it, you’ll need to find the root cause.
Unfortunately, many neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and MS aren’t curable with today’s medical technology. The only thing doctors can do is slow their progression.
The only way to know if you have gliosis is to talk to a doctor. They’ll perform an MRI of your brain which will clearly show if it’s happening.
If it is, the best they can do is try to treat the underlying symptom. In some cases the underlying symptom will be treatable and in other cases it won’t.