What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
Also known as MS, multiple sclerosis is a disease which affects the central nervous system. The body’s immune system essentially attacks the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Scientists are still not completely sure what causes the body to react this way, and symptoms are unpredictable.
What It Is and Who It Affects
In someone who suffers from multiple sclerosis, the immune system damages the myelin, which protects the nerve fibers of the central nervous system. The myelin then scars (sclerosis). When myelin is destroyed, the nerve pathway from your body to your brain and spinal cord is disrupted. Although the cause is unknown, researchers have found a few factors that may increase the likelihood of developing the disease. Doctors diagnose twice as many women as men, and usually between the ages of 20 and 40. Family history, being Caucasian, and having an existing autoimmune disease (such as Type 1 diabetes) also raises your chances of developing multiple sclerosis.
Symptoms of MS
Symptoms of MS are different for everyone, depending on which part of the myelin sheath is damaged. Although most types of MS are mild, some people lose their ability to walk, speak, and function. Some symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:
- Muscle weakness
- Dizziness and tremors
- Prickling sensations in skin
- Memory retention problems
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Vision problems
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Types of MS
Relapsing-remitting MS is the most common form of the disease. Symptoms intensify at certain times. Then, the person will go into a period of recovery, where the symptoms lesson or disappear. Flare ups may be caused by an infection. However, over half of the people who suffer from RRMS experience a worsening in their disease after a recovery period. About 15% to 20% of people suffer from PPMS, or primary-progressive MS, where the disease continuously worsens without any remission.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Along with other autoimmune diseases, MS may be hard for a physician to diagnose. Oftentimes, blurred vision, color distortion or double vision are early warning signs of the disease. Neurological and blood testing may take place so your doctor can rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms. Your doctor may order a spinal tap to measure the amounts of proteins associated with multiple sclerosis, or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to check your brain and spinal cord for lesions. Presently, there is no known cure for MS. Several therapies, such as physical and speech, along with medication can maintain your quality of life and slow down the diseases’ progression.
While MS is not curable at this time, there are medications available to help! Speak to your doctor about treatment options.
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