Definition of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (also called MS) is a neurological disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. The body’s immune system begins to mistakenly damage healthy nerve cells of the central nervous system, eventually resulting in diminished use of muscles and cognitive abilities.
MS is more common in females, and usually occurs in early adulthood to age 50.
There is no agreement yet in the scientific community about what the cause of Multiple sclerosis is. Many feel that it is genetic, or a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure to something that causes or triggers the disease.
There are two common types of MS:
- Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS) – Accounts for about 80% of cases, and is characterized by periods or bouts of symptoms, which may last a period of three months or longer before abating, often to the point that a full remission of symptoms is observed.
- Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis – This type of MS is often considered to be a phase which follows RRMS, wherein the disease accelerates and does not subside as in the previous RRMS type, and in fact becomes more aggressive in its course. Some RRMS patients may not experience the secondary progressive type of MS for 25 years or longer after initial diagnosis or onset of MS symptoms.
Symptoms of MS
Reported symptoms of MS vary widely, and often change or vary in intensity during the progression of the disease
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased coordination, clumsiness, a drunk-like stagger when walking
- Blurred, decreased or hazy vision
- Eye pain
- Double vision
- Mood changes
- Inability to reason as clearly as before, cognitive impairments
- Sensitivity to heat, which can exacerbate or trigger a worsening of symptoms above
As the disease progresses, symptoms may include muscle stiffness (spasticity), pain, difficulty controlling urination or problems with cognition.
Thankfully, MS has responded well to various medical treatments and therapies. Many MS patients continue to enjoy a full, active life, so long as certain limitations are respected.
Some of the treatments available are:
- Medications, which can shorten attacks of MS (acute worsening of symptoms) and relieve the symptoms of MS (such as pain, urinary problems and muscle stiffness)
- Physical therapy and exercises, to strengthen core muscles and reduce stiffness and muscle atrophy