Multiple Sclerosis – Basics

The human brain and the nervous system is mainly made up of neurons, which are a collection of special cells and nerves. These neurons transmit signals from the brain to different parts of your body. Neurology focuses on finding cures for many types of neurological disorders and diseases such as brain tumors, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis to name a few.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

It is a disabling illness originating in the central nervous system. When the immune system of your body attacks the myelin or the protective covering of the nerve fibers, it causes severe communication issues between your brain and the body parts. It is a progressive disease that can cause permanent or incurable damage to the nerves.

MS or multiple sclerosis symptoms may vary from one person to another. It is also connected to the degree of nerve deterioration. People with severe nerve damage can lose the power to walk without support. MS may not be curable, but proper medical treatment may assist in speedy recovery from severe attacks and also help manage the symptoms

Signs or Symptoms of MS

• There may be vision problems with partial or complete loss of sight

• Patients may experience double vision for a prolonged period

• Numbness sets in one or both the limbs occurring only on one side of the body at any given period

• Patients may feel shock-like sensations when they move their neck or bend forward

• Patients can experience tremors, poor coordination, and faltering gait.

• Patients can have difficulty in speaking or slurred speech

• Patients may experience dizziness and fatigue

• Patients can suffer poor bladder function and bowel movement

• Patients may suffer from sexual dysfunction

When to see a Medical Specialist / Neurologist?

Being a progressive disease, MS can change and worsen over a specific period of time. A patient diagnosed with multiple sclerosis symptoms needs to see a neurologist on a regular basis. MS patients with relapse remitting courses can experience new symptoms and relapses that may improve slowly. Such phases are then followed by some quiet periods called disease remission. Almost 60% of patients with relapsing-remitting courses eventually develop continuous progression of the MS symptoms. The worsening of MS symptoms can cause serious issues with patient mobility and their walking abilities.

Multiple Sclerosis Causes

Medical science has not been able to find out the actual cause of this neurological disorder. It has been considered as an autoimmune illness wherein the immune system starts attacking its own tissues. In the case of MS, the protective myelin layer is damaged, and the sensitive nerve fiber gets exposed. And thus the messages that travel via the nerve may be totally blocked or slowed.

Risk Factors leading to Multiple Sclerosis

• Age – MS usually affects individuals who are in the age group of 16 to 55 years

• Sex – Women are said to be twice as likely as men to contract the relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis syndrome.

• Genetic History – If someone has had MS in your family, you may be at higher risk of getting the symptoms of MS.

• Infections – Many infectious diseases have been linked to multiple sclerosis disorder. If you get a specific infection, it is possible that you may also develop the MS symptoms.

• Autoimmune Diseases – You are at a greater risk of contracting MS if you have type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel condition or thyroid.

• Smoking – Smokers are twice as likely to develop secondary relapsing-remitting MS as compared to non-smokers

Diagnosis & Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

Tests for MS are done differently by ruling out all other conditions that may produce similar symptoms. It is called a differential diagnosis. The doctor will then start with a detailed medical history and physical examination.

Nerve inflammation medications like corticosteroids and the process of plasma exchange can be considered for severe MS attacks. The treatment course for relapsing-remitting MS can include intravenous injections such as beta interferon and glatiramer acetate to help block the immunity attacks on the myelin covering. Patients can also improve their movement by consulting an occupational therapist and doing physical stretching exercises. Walking speed can be improved by taking dalfampridine medication.

Patients are advised to eat a well-balanced diet and intake vitamin D supplements. Patients are also encouraged to relieve stress by doing yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises.