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The Attack of Multiple Sclerosis


To get a deeper understanding about the inflammatory disease that is called multiple sclerosis, or MS, it is important to have a general idea of how the central of nervous system works.

 

Central nervous system (CNS) is a composite term for the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerve; although the latter is often not mentioned in most definitions.  CNS is further composed of two specialized cells, namely, the neurons and the glia.  The billions of nerve cells called neurons are responsible for the basic information processing and communication of the CNS; while glial cells, or neuroglia, serve as the support structure for the neurons. Among the many functions of glia include holding the neurons in place, providing them nutrition, facilitate in the maintenance of homeostasis, and participating in signal transmission in the nervous system.

 

Furthermore, CNS is composed of two different regions, namely: the grey matter, and the white matter.  Grey matter, also known as cerebral cortex, refers to the outer layer of human brain.  It is formed by the closely packed neuron cell bodies, and contains the specialized regions inside the brain that are responsible for the muscle control and sensory perceptions.  While white matter, on the other hand, refers to the neuronal tissue that contains the myelinated axons.  Also known as diencephalon, white matter is located between the cerebellum and brainstem, and is responsible for relaying sensory messages from any of the body part to cerebral cortex, and in controlling the unconscious functions like body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.  There are also particular cores of white matter that are responsible for the human emotion expression, the releasing of pituitary gland hormones, and water and food intake coordination.

 

Central nervous system (CNS) is the center of attack of multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic and debilitating condition that has affected more than 2.5 million people worldwide.  MS is particularly an inflammatory disease that usually affects the white matter tissue, upon which patches of damage known as plaques or lesions encroach; and, where there are patches, myelin is lost.  Myelin is that fatty substance that encloses and protects the nerve fibers of the CNS. The type and severity of MS symptoms depend largely on which areas it encroaches.  Its symptoms may range from as mild as numbness in the limbs, to severe, which may lead to paralysis and/or loss of vision.

 

One of the most salient characteristics of MS is that no two people get it in the same way, and its progress, severity, and specific symptoms have varying degrees.  Doctors find it difficult to diagnose multiple sclerosis because of certain factors, namely: the disease displays numerous MS symptoms that elicit different reactions from its patients; many, if not most, of the symptoms imitate conditions that are typical of other ailments; no blood test for multiple sclerosis, and; intermittent occurrence of symptoms at an unpredictable course.  Besides, many of its symptoms are ambiguous and difficult to measure, specifically fatigue, erectile dysfunction, depression, and cognitive issues.

 

Multiple sclerosis is, indeed, an individual disease; hence, it is counterproductive to compare the case of one patient with another.  What is important, rather, is to provide full support to the sufferer in whatever way possible.  After all, it could be a family member or a loved that needs such support.

Profile: Multiple Sclerosis


Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is the most common autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, which causes are yet to be known even as researchers and scientists carry on their quest for solutions. It is not a contagious disease, and treatments to delay its progression are readily available.

 

Although multiple sclerosis (MS) can affect other populations, people living outside the 40-degree mark north or south of the equator are more prone to the disease than those living in warmer climates, maybe because of their reduced vitamin D levels and/or less exposure to the sun. The disease usually begins to show signs and symptoms around the age of 20 up to the age of 50, affecting mostly women at twice the rate of men.  Although scientists have seen multiple sclerosis cases among young children and the elderly, they claimed that they have not yet encountered symptoms among people below 15 years old or above age 60.  Experts have also found that women possess a higher level of protein known as the interferon gamma, which could possibly explain why they are more prone to multiple sclerosis (MS).  In addition, the disease has a genetic component.  Having a father or mother who contracted MS runs a 3 to 5 percent risk of acquiring the same disease; while having an identical twin raises the risk to 30 percent.

multiple-sclerosis

 

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Symptoms:

The multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms are so numerous, but the more salient ones include: numbness and tingling sensation; vision problems or optic neuritis; loss of coordination; fatigue; dizziness; bowel and bladder dysfunction; alteration in sexual ability or erectile dysfunction; depression; emotional changes, and; muscle tremors.  There are also other MS symptoms that seldom occur, such as: headaches, difficulty in swallowing, problem with breathing, speech deficiency, seizures, loss of hearing, and itching.

 

Diagnosing multiple sclerosis (MS)

Diagnosing multiple sclerosis (MS), therefore, is very difficult, and practitioners cite some reasons, like:

  • It exhibits numerous symptoms, and every patient reacts differently to each symptom. Some patients may start with only a single symptom followed by a period without progression; while others may demonstrate multiple symptoms all at the same time;
  • Many of the symptoms imitate conditions that are characteristics of other ailments;
  • There has been no blood test for multiple sclerosis;
  • Symptoms occur intermittently and follows an unpredictable course;
  • Many symptoms are vague and difficult to gauge, such as fatigue, erectile dysfunction, depression, and cognitive problems, and which general practitioners may attribute to stress; hence, patients may never get to be referred to a specialist.

 

Nevertheless, experts were able to lay down some accepted criteria for making diagnosis, albeit imperfect, such as:

  • Multiple Sclerosis commonly starts between 20 and 50 years old;
  • Multiple Sclerosis symptoms and signs that indicate disease of the brain or spinal cord;
  • Evidence of two or more lesions in the brain;
  • Objective evidence of disease of the brain or spinal cord upon doctor’s examination;
  • Two or more episodes that last at least 24 hours, and occur at least one month apart, and;
  • No other explanation for the symptoms

 

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an individual disease, and therefore, it is pointless to compare cases of one patient with another.

History of Multiple Sclerosis


Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) had already existed even during the Middle Ages when some writings were found containing a record about a patient who succumbed to “excruciating pain, blinding headaches, problems walking and paralysis”, descriptions which, doctors of the present believe, point to what is now called Multiple Sclerosis.  The description did not have a name then, but a Dutch saint named Lidwina, who got worse after a fall and experienced remissions and eventually died in 1433, must have been one of the earliest sufferers of the disease. Another probable victim of the similarly unnamed disease was a grandson of King George III, who described his conditions in a diary he kept until his death in 1848.

It was in 1868 when the Multiple Sclerosis condition was identified as a disease. Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot, a professor of neurology at the University of Paris, who has been referred to as “the father of neurology” recorded as he examined a female young patient with this unusual combination of symptoms of the disease: she exhibited tremors he had never seen and other neurological conditions like slurred speech and abnormal eye movements. He tried several applications typical of neurological disorders on her, but failed.  Thus, when the patient eventually died, he opened her brain and there discovered brain lesions, the characteristic scars or “plaques” of multiple sclerosis. Because of this findings, Dr. Charcot then called the disease sclerose en plaques.

Multiple Sclerosis was recognized as a specific disease in England by Dr. Moxon in 1873, and in the United States by Dr. Edward Seguin in 1878.  Since then, the world came to learn much about multiple sclerosis. It specifically exhibited its salient characteristics, such as: that multiple sclerosis affects more women than men; that it is not a hereditary disease, and; that it is capable of generating many neurological symptoms.

In 1878, Dr. Loius-Antoine Ranvier, French pathologist and anatomist, discovered myelin sheath, although its significance was yet to be known.

In 1916, when doctors thought that multiple sclerosis was caused by a toxin or virus that entered into the brain through the bloodstream, Dr. James Dawson of the University of Edinburgh did a microscopic study on the brains of dead MS patients and was able to describe distinctly the inflammation around the blood vessels and the damage to myelin. n

In 1919, an abnormality in spinal fluid was discovered, but then again, its significance remained unknown.

Amid the disorder of World War II, the scientific community continued to search for cure of multiple sclerosis, that in 1943, the actual composition of myelin was determined.

In 1947, when doctors postulated on the findings that multiple sclerosis was due to blood flow problems, and as they were trying to stimulate circulation for treatment, a researcher at Columbia University discovered that MS patients had bizarre protein by-products in their cerebrospinal fluid. This eventually ushered to the present’s MS testing.

It was in 1960s when multiple sclerosis was declared an autoimmune disease which, in the following decade, ushered to a discovery of steroids to treat Multiple Sclerosis (MS) attacks. It was also during this period that scientists developed the first disease-defying agent.

Although, science has already accomplished much, since the Middle Ages, to find solutions to the problems of multiple sclerosis, studies still continue to discover a cure that would totally eradicated the disease.  Let us just hope that with new technologies we may see victory soon.

Multiple Sclerosis and Pregnancy


It is common knowledge that Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating disease which affects the victim’s spinal cord, brain and also optic nerves which attributes to muscular weakness, the loss of coordination’s, and also visual disturbances and speeches to the sufferer. Because of this fact, women who have Multiple Sclerosis (MS) disease may get confused and develop some sort of apprehension about getting pregnant. Perhaps, they may have thought about the impact multiple sclerosis (MS) brings on their foetus or babies later. They could not be blamed for harbouring such fear because having a baby is a very important event in a woman’s life.  Besides, it had been a common belief before 1950 when women with multiple sclerosis were advised not to get pregnant because it might worsen their condition.

Therefore, it is important to give light to this issue.

First of all, women with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) should be at peace at the fact that there has been no evidence recorded so far about multiple sclerosis impairing fertility, or causing spontaneous abortions, stillbirths and baby abnormalities.  Secondly, the belief that had been circulating before 1950 has already been reversed after hundreds of studies revealed that there is no proof to the idea that pregnancy worsens multiple sclerosis conditions. Many studies conducted over the decades have proven that multiple sclerosis does not adversely affect pregnancy, labour, nor in child birth. In fact, doctors have observed that symptoms or relapses of the disease seem to stabilize during the course of pregnancy until childbirth.

It is only after the baby is born, however, when the situation reverses as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) exacerbation occurs. Most of the women are likely to deal with a 20 to 40 percent risk of relapses during the first six months after childbirth.  But these relapses are not responsible for, nor serve as contributing factors to, the long-term MS disability.  At any rate, it is recommended that women with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) need to map out plans regarding who will take care of the baby, or bring them to the hospital during the post-partum relapse periods.

The temporary improvement or stability during pregnancy is thought to have been due to the hormonal changes during pregnancy. Specifically, prolactin, a hormone of lactation produced by the pituitary glands, which abounds in the course of pregnancy is said to be responsible for such improvement. Scientists believe that prolactin helps the body in the reconstruction of myelin, or the white fatty material that serves as a protective sheath around the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord, that has been damaged during regressions. You may be interested in checking out what are some of the MS symptoms.

Women who have been taking medications for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) need to be aware that some of these drugs might be harmful to the foetus or may cause birth defects when taken during pregnancy and breast feeding. That is why they have to consult with their respective physicians when considering pregnancy.  Particular drugs that have been identified to be harmful, include: prednisone, corticotrophin, azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, diazepam, phenytoin, carbamazepine, and baclofen.

Another good news is that pregnant women with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) now have a decreasing chance of caesarean deliveries, no more likely to experience pre-eclampsia and other high blood pressure conditions, premature rupture of membranes, and having babies with poor prenatal growth rate.  In other words, they can now enjoy pregnancy like other women who do not have the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) disease.

MS Treatment Options


Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is an incurable condition of the central nervous system that adversely affects the sensory information system between the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves, and which consequently causes the weakening of muscles in the arms and legs, and making it difficult for coordination and balance. Since it is incurable, MS can only be treated either by drug therapy, which alleviates particular symptoms, minimizes the periods of attacks, and delays the advancement of the condition, or; by alternative therapies to control the symptoms. MS symptoms usually manifest in color blindness, blindness in one eye, or hazy vision.  In severe cases, however, the symptoms may even result to complete paralysis, speech problem, and dizziness.

The drugs used for treatment depend largely on the type or classification of multiple sclerosis the person has, although there could be other factors for administering such drugs. Drug treatments may be administered through injection, which means either inserting the medication subcutaneously, or introducing it intramuscularly. This type of drug treatment is called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy drugs, which are prescribed for those having the Relapsing-Remitting type of MS, cut down on the frequency and severity of MS attacks, and therefore affecting only minimal damage to the myelin sheaths. Examples of immunotherapy drugs are interferons and copaxone, among others.

In addition, MS drug treatment can also be given intravenously through infusion, or orally.  These corticosteroids medication decrease the periods of multiple sclerosis bouts.

MS patients have to be aware, however, that just like any other medications, opting for drug therapy has its accompanying side effects, like drowsiness, gastrointestinal disturbance, fluid retention, swelling, flu-like symptoms, mood swings, and skin irritation at the infection site. It is advisable for them, therefore, to consult and discuss with their doctor should they encounter any of these signs or experience any discomfort while under drug therapy.

MS Treatment Options

On the other hand, there are a number of proven alternative therapies that can help alleviate multiple sclerosis conditions, including: acupuncture, chiropractic, biofeedback therapy, hypnosis, massage, meditation, relaxation techniques, tai chi, and yoga. Acupuncture, a popular element in traditional Chinese medicine, has become a popular therapy to alleviate multiple sclerosis symptoms.  It is even proven to balance the sensory information between the brain and the body since acupuncture has the capacity to release endorphins and peptides in the brain.

Moreover, through constant studies, it has been found that chiropractic therapy can also help alleviate the pain of MS sufferers since it focuses on the adjustment of the spine and neck to provide relief.  Therefore, if an MS patient suffers from spine and leg pains, he can benefit from chiropractic therapy.

Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune condition, and therefore, anything that can boost the body’s natural immunity is helpful. One way of increasing the body’s immunity is through exercise. That is why it is no surprise why the Multiple Sclerosis Society points out that those MS patients, who stay inactive consequently allow their muscles to weaken more and develop soreness more than those who engage themselves in exercise programs. Likewise, the National Institutes of Health even propose that MS patients avail of physical and occupational therapies to help them control their symptoms, as professionals in these fields can advise appropriate exercise programs and design necessary adjustments to make their daily routines manageable.

Another essential element that MS patients should watch out for is their core body temperature, which should be kept cool as much as possible to avoid relapses in the future. It is advisable that MS sufferer speak to their doctor on using available MS treatment options.