Multiple Sclerosis or the acronym MS is a typically disabling condition affecting the person’s central nervous system. It interferes with the information from the brain to the body. Doctors are still unsure about what is the actual cause of the condition. However, scientists think that the disease is something that is triggered by environmental factors in those who may be genetically predisposed to the condition. These environmental factors are as of yet, unidentified.
In Multiple Sclerosis, the Myelin, which is a protective coating that is found around the nerve fibers of the central nervous system, is the primary target of the immunological attack in the disease. It’s considered an immune-mediated disease where the immune system attacks the myelin by mistake and thus affects the central nervous system.
The condition will vary from one person to another. Typically, if a person is going to get the disease, they will come down with it between the ages of 20 years old and 50 years old. Women are two to three times more likely to get the condition.
The body of a person that is suffering from Multiple Sclerosis will give abnormal responses to the immune system and attack itself. The messages between the brain and the body may be garbled resulting in the inability to control muscles, balance and there may be visual disturbances as well.
Since MS involves immune-mediated processes, there are abnormal results in the central nervous system that make up the brain, the spinal cord, and the optic nerves. Since the specific antigen that causes this is still unknown, the condition is considered to be “immune-mediated” instead of “autoimmune.”
The Central Nervous System will attack the myelin which is the fatty substance that is found in and around the nerve fibers to insulate them. This damaged myelin will form scar tissue which is called sclerosis, and that is how the disease was named.
As the various nerves and nerve fibers are damaged, the nerve impulses that travel from the brain to the body are disrupted and distorted resulting in the lack of ability to control various muscles, and balance.
While the condition is believed to be a genetically predisposed condition, there are also environmental factors that may affect the disease as well. Typically, those who have the condition have one of four possible courses of the disease.
These four disease courses can be mild to moderate or severe. It’s a long-lasting disease and can significantly affect the ability to control the spinal cord (walking may become difficult), the muscles (muscle control may become challenging) and even hand to eye coordination (there are also visual disturbances in some of the patients). Other essential body functions may also be affected. The disease of MS is long-lasting and may also affect the brain, the optic nerves, and the spinal cord.
It will affect each person slightly differently, and many will only have mild symptoms that don’t require any treatment. However, others will have severe and debilitating symptoms that must be medically managed for them to accomplish any daily tasks.
Other symptoms that may affect the person include difficulty walking, tiredness, muscle weakness and or spasms, tingling and numbness in various areas of the body, weak bowel and bladder control, pain, depression, sexual issues, difficulty in remembering or focusing,
It is also possible for the disease to go into remission. And the afflicted person may even relapse as the condition gets worse. Typically, over the course of time, the virus will progressively get worse.
Recently, scientists have discovered a variety of new and innovative treatment options for the condition. These options can help to prevent relapses, and that can also slow the effects of the disease.
Nuedexta is a drug being tested for treating uncontrollable outbursts associated with multiple sclerosis. The cost of the Nuedexta drug and the side effects can make it a feasible option for those affected by the disorder.
What Causes MS?
Again, the disease may be something that a person is predisposed to due to genetics and environmental factors. However, it may also be that a virus such as Epstein-Barr may make the person more likely to contract the condition. Herpesvirus 6 is also being studied as it may also affect a person’s immune system and prevent it from working correctly.
Another theory is that low levels of Vitamin D may predispose a person to the disease. Vitamin D is derived from the sunlight and people who live in regions that are darker in the winter months or during the year may have lower levels, and it may weaken their immune systems.
How Is MS Diagnosed?
It can be challenging at best to diagnose MS. The symptoms may mimic other conditions and doctors will have to run a series of tests to determine what is actually going on.
The doctor may send the patient to a specialist called a neurologist who will check the entire medical history and run further tests. These tests on the person should help the physician to determine what is going on.
These tests may include blood tests that will rule out Lyme disease as well as HIV/AIDS. They will check the balance and coordination as well as their vision and other functions to see how the nerves are responding.
An MRI will also be done to determine how widespread the condition is. Additionally, the person may have a Cerebrospinal fluid where the doctors will look for specific proteins.
While there is no cure available for Multiple Sclerosis, there are a variety of treatments that the doctor can use to help the patient manage their condition. Doctors can prescribe medications that may be able to slow the course of the disease and prevent further attacks. These medicines may help to ease the patient’s symptoms and help them to manage the disease.
Steroids may be prescribed as well as muscle relaxants and tranquilizers. These are given to help ease the muscle spasms and some of the other symptoms that may accompany the condition.
A physical therapist may have to assist the patient in learning how to do things differently. Therapy may also be given to support the patient in managing the fatigue and pain that often accompany the disease.
It’s not unusual to require a walker or cane and braces for various body parts to properly function. It’s vital that the patient gets plenty of physical exercises and avoid overexertion and too much heat. Consider Yoga and Pilates to help ease stress and fatigue.
It’s also vital to ensure that the patient is healthy emotionally as well. They need to reduce stress and anxiety as well as develop a support network. This may also involve others in the family picking up some of the slack and helping the person to stay active and stress-free.