At GNC Dubai, our trained neurologists are equipped to diagnose multiple sclerosis within patients and provide suitable treatment options to help manage the disease and accompanying symptoms. It’s important to pay attention to early warning signs of multiple sclerosis in order to be able to have a better quality of life.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. When a person has MS, their immune system attacks the myelin that covers nerve fibers and consequently causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. MS can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves at later stages.
Signs and symptoms of MS will vary depending on the amount of nerve damage each person has faced and which specific nerves are affected. Those with severe MS may lose the ability to walk. There is no known cure for MS, however, there are multiple treatments that can help speed recovery and manage symptoms.
Early signs of multiple sclerosis
Being aware of the early symptoms of multiple sclerosis will help patients start treatment early and help them manage symptoms.
1. Optic neuritis
Optic neuritis is a condition that damages the nerve that connects the eye to the brain. This will usually affect just one eye but can affect both in rare cases. Those experiencing optic neuritis may notice blurry vision, dull colors and eye pain when looking around.
Patients experiencing numbness or tingling may feel a sensation similar to an electric shock when moving their head or neck and even their legs.
3. Spinal cord inflammation
Also referred to as partial transverse myelitis, this common symptom may have patients experiencing numbness, tingling or weakness in the arms and legs, bladder dysfunction or difficulty walking.
4. Bowel problems
These range from constipation to diarrhea. Patients may be constipated due to reduced physical activity.
5. Facial paralysis
One side of the face may become temporarily paralyzed or appear to droop. This is often referred to as facial paralysis or facial palsy.
6. Cognitive problems
This includes memory problems, language problems, shortened attention spans and being unable to stay organized.
7. Emotional changes
Depression is common among people with multiple sclerosis. They may also experience mood swings, irritability and a condition called ‘pseudobulbar affect’. This is a condition that involves sudden uncontrollable laughing or crying.
8. Pain or spasms
Acute or chronic pain along with involuntary muscle spasms are common symptoms experienced. The legs are most often affected but many people may experience back pains as well.
Many people experiencing fatigue as a symptom of multiple sclerosis may feel extremely tired especially during the afternoon. This results in weaker muscles, slowed thinking and sleepiness even after a proper night of sleep.
Other symptoms may include seizures, tremors, breathing problems, slurred speech, hearing loss and trouble swallowing.
Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)
CIS is a neurological symptom that typically lasts around 24 hours and is often the first symptom of multiple sclerosis. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly informs your body to attack the myelin in your brain and spinal cord. Doctors may refer to this as ‘demyelination’ and this causes scars or lesions that make it more difficult for signals to travel between the brain and the body. There are two types of CIS – monofocal episodes, in which only one symptom is experienced, and multifocal episodes, in which patients experience multiple symptoms.
While clinically isolated syndrome is an early sign of multiple sclerosis, not everyone who develops CIS will be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The odds are higher for those who have lesions in the brain due to the loss of myelin.
Diagnosing multiple sclerosis
Doctors or neurologists will perform several tests to diagnose MS. These tests typically include:
- A neurological exam that has doctors checking for impaired nerve function
- An eye exam to evaluate vision and to determine any possible eye diseases
- Blood tests to rule out other diseases that have similar symptoms to MS
- Spinal tap to also help rule out infections with similar symptoms and to detect any abnormalities in antibodies that are associated with MS
- An MRI to reveal areas of lesions on the brain and spinal cord
- Evoked potentials that are electrical nerve tests help doctors confirm whether or not MS has affected the parts of the brain that help you see, hear and feel
Treating multiple sclerosis
While there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, there are treatments that focus on speedy recoveries from attacks, as well as treatment to slow down the progression of the disease and manage symptoms.
Disease-Modifying Drugs such as Beta interferons, Glatiramer (Copaxone, Glatopa), Cladribrine (Mavenclad), Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera), Diroximel fumarate (Vumerity), Fingolimod (Gilenya), Siponimod (Mayzent), Teriflunomide (Aubagio), Natalizumab (Tysabri) and ocrelizumab (Ocrevus), Alemtuzumab (Lemtrada) and mitoxantrone (Novantrone) and others.
Corticosteroids, oral prednisone and intravenous methylprednisolone, are prescribed to reduce nerve inflammation. Some side effects of corticosteroids may include insomnia, increased blood glucose levels and blood pressure, fluid retention and mood swings.
Plasma exchange is used as a way to “clean” the blood for those with some forms of multiple sclerosis. During the plasma exchange, plasma is replaced with new plasma from a donor or with a plasma substitute. This treatment is used to manage sudden or severe attacks, and if patients haven’t responded to steroids.
Physical therapy makes it easier to perform daily tasks that have been affected by multiple sclerosis symptoms. A physical therapist will help patients stretch with strengthening exercises.
Muscle relaxants are often given to those with painful or uncontrollable muscle spasms or stiffness. Relaxants such as baclofen, tizanidine and cyclobenzaprine are commonly used.
Other medications can also be given to those experiencing fatigue, as well as depression, pain, insomnia or bladder control problems.