What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves causing muscular weakness, loss of coordination, and speech and visual disturbances to the victim. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) usually occurs when the white fatty material called myelin that acts as protective sheath around the nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord becomes damaged. There is still no known cause for Multiple Sclerosis to date, but many theories have cropped up. Most scientists believe that it is brought about by several factors like genetics, immune system malfunction, gender, exposure to heavy metals, bacteria or virus, diet and allergies.
Since there is no known cause, there are also no drugs to cure Multiple Sclerosis (MS), though there are treatments available to ease the symptoms and reduce its course. A number of patients, however, opt to eliminate therapy due to the serious side effects and significant risks caused by many medications, and still they do well. Studies are also ongoing in the areas of immunology, epidemiology, and genetics to try discover the cause for Multiple Sclerosis, hoping to prevent the disease from occurring, and/or find effective ways to treat it.
Statistics reveal that more than 400,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million worldwide succumb to Multiple Sclerosis. The disease, which usually begins to manifest in early adult life (20 to 45 years old), affecting mostly women at almost twice the rate of men, causes progressive disability over the years. Although scientists have discovered MS cases among young children and elderly, symptoms seldom occur before the age of 15 or after age 60.
Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
The most popular early symptoms of MS normally includes numbness, tingling, weak body balance, feeling weak in one or more limbs, also a blurred or double vision. But then, even if most of the victims notice the symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40, diagnosis is often delayed primarily because of the transitory nature of the disease. Caucasians, especially those living between latitudes 40o and 60o north and south of the equator, are more likely to develop MS than other races. To date, there is still no single test that directly detects Multiple Sclerosis (MS). But several MRI techniques may help quantify and characterize multiple sclerosis lesions. Physicians who are faced with an MS case usually use different tools to rule out other possible disorders and perform a series of laboratory tests before confirming the diagnosis.
As the disease progresses, other MS symptoms also manifest, like fatigue, sensitivity to heat, muscle spasm, impaired thinking, breathing problems, seizures and sexual disturbances. Fatigue is a common symptoms of MS typically occurring in the mid-afternoon; it consists of increased muscle weakness, mental fatigue, and drowsiness. MS patients usually complain of extreme fatigue despite having a good night’s sleep. They also develop swallowing difficulties, which is, in many cases, associated with speech problems.
Multiple Sclerosis has a varied and unpredictable course. Some patients start with a single MS symptoms, followed by a period without progression of symptoms; while others may develop several symptoms and get worse fast. Thus, it is not helpful to compare one patient to another because Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an individual disease.