Multiple sclerosis is a central nervous system disease that results in the malfunctioning of the brain’s communication with the nerves.
The condition occurs when a protective coating around the nerves degrades. This coating, called myelin, is essential for preserving nerve endings and other parts of the nervous system keeping them free of damage.
We do not understand precisely why myelin suffers damages, but doctors suggest that the immune system may attack myelin for unknown reasons. As myelin is damaged, the nerves’ communication with the brain is impaired, resulting in a range of problems varying from lack of feeling in certain body parts to total immobility.
Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis
Symptoms can vary greatly, leading to difficulties diagnosing M.S. as they mimic other diseases and conditions. Most commonly, people with M.S. experience:
- Numbness or a “pins and needles” sensation in your extremities
- Weakness in the legs or hands
- Blurred vision, or loss of eyesight
- Bowel or bladder problems.
- Chronic fatigue
- Slurring of the speech
- Issues with memory, attention and speed of processing information – what some describe as “brain fog.”
- Problems with balance.
- Sexual dysfunction.
Causes of Multiple Sclerosis
Due to the unclear nature of why multiple sclerosis develops in some but not in others, pinpointing exact causes has proven elusive.
People who exhibit symptoms of multiple sclerosis may be quite fit overall and show no other signs of ill health. Although environmental conditions could be a factor, genetics, age, gender, inadequate sources of vitamin D, smoking, and adolescent obesity could also play a role in the progression of the disease.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society says there are three main types of multiple sclerosis:
- Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS), the most common type experienced by 70-75 percent of all cases, where symptoms appear for a while then go into remission, sometimes with no treatment at all. The symptoms may then reappear months or even years later. Even though the symptoms may have gone away for a while, seeking treatment for multiple sclerosis is essential because later bouts of the condition may cause irreparable nerve damage.
- Some patients with Relapsing-Remitting MS later develop Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS). With SPMS, there can be a progressive worsening of neurologic function and disability over time. Around 85% of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis have the relapsing-remitting type.
- Primary Progressive MS (PPMS) tends to occur in the older male population but can also affect women. Symptoms progress and disability can worsen without any period of remission, as with RRMS. Primary progressive multiple sclerosis is the most challenging stage of the disease to treat. Catching the condition in the earlier stages allows for more effective medical options for treating multiple sclerosis.
Treatment of M.S. depends on the type of M.S. and whether there’s an active or acute flare-up of symptoms.
For those acute phases of the disease, steroids and plasma exchange can provide relief. However, when the disease has gotten to later stages, physical therapy and other medical treatments can help the body recover from attacks. In addition, there are currently more than 20 disease-modifying therapies available to help reduce symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
Dr. Fawad Yousuf, M.D., a neurologist with Marcus Neuroscience Institute, part of Baptist Health, says a common misconception his patients have when facing their diagnosis is that their quality of life will quickly diminish. “With medical management and emerging treatments, we can slow the progression of the disease and disability, and most people can live relatively normal lives,” he said.
Marcus Neuroscience Institute offers a comprehensive program to diagnose and treat M.S. An infusion center provides patients with intravenous medications to reduce symptoms and slow the progression. The Institute also offers an M.S. support group and rehabilitation services to manage the physical symptoms of the disease.
If you or a loved one have been experiencing symptoms, or have concerns regarding Multiple Sclerosis, give our clinic a call at 345-949-2970; or book an appointment online at: www.thechildrensclinic.ky/#appointment to discuss your concerns with one of our doctors.