You might have or might not have heard about this disease, and hence it’d be better to start with an explanation of the medical condition. Well, multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that affects the body’s nervous system, especially the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. What happens is that the immune system attacks the myelin (the protective sheath covering the nerve fibers) and this leads to a break in the communication between the brain and the rest of our body.
This damage to the myelin sheath can leave scars in multiple areas. These scars are also termed plaques/lesions/sclerosis. The main body parts that get affected due to this condition are:
- Brain stem
- Optic nerves
- Spinal cord
- White matter in some areas of the brain
Types of Multiple Sclerosis
There are 4 types of MS.
- Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS): this is the first episode of the disease wherein the symptoms last for around 24 hours.
- Relapse-Remitting MS (RRMS): This is the most common form, with new or increasing symptoms, followed by remission periods.
- Primary Progressive MS (PPMS): this is the episode wherein patients experience progressively worsening symptoms.
- Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS): patients begin to experience episodes of relapse and remission, after which the symptoms happen to progress rapidly.
Multiple Sclerosis: Symptoms
The range of symptoms people with MS can experience is very wide-ranged and also vary from person to person. Some common symptoms are:
Around 80 percent of people with Multiple sclerosis report suffering from fatigue problems, making it the most common symptom of this condition. Fatigue is a medical condition that can severely affect people’s ability to work for long, concentrate, and performance.
- Problems with the vision:
Vision problems are generally an early symptom of this disease. Double or blurred vision, red-green color distortion, a partial or total loss in vision might be experienced.
- Emotional disturbance:
The nerve fiber and the myelin damage, along with other effects in the central nervous system, can lead to emotional changes, and might even trigger major problems like depression, etc.
- Difficulty in walking:
MS can cause numbness in your legs, weaken your muscles, promote issues in balancing or coordination as well as muscle spasms. These can lead to difficulty in walking properly among the patients.
- Tremor: Involuntary quiver can also be one symptom experienced by some patients.
- Pain: Pain is quite common among MS patients, mostly neuropathic pain. other types of pain could also be experienced, which can be due to the stiffness of body muscles, which is again a consequence of the disease.
- Other symptoms: Some less common symptoms of Multiple sclerosis can be: sexual dysfunction, loss of hearing, seizures, respiratory problems, speech disorders, problems in swallowing, risk of urinary tract infections, loss of mobility, etc. People might also experience changes in thinking, problems with bowel and bladder function, etc. Multiple Sclerosis, as we said, has different types of symptoms in different people and they might worsen in some people, in others they might not.
Multiple Sclerosis: Causes
You might be wondering now about what exactly causes this condition. There is not enough conclusive evidence for the causes of MS by scientists. However, suggestions are that this immune system attack could be caused by an environmental trigger, like a virus or a toxin. Let’s have a look at some of the risk factors that are associated with this condition.
- Sex: Most forms of MS carry a greater chance to affect men.
- Age: most people generally develop this condition between the age of 20 and 40 years.
- Genetic factors: MS is not hereditary, but if you’re parent or sibling already has this condition, your chances of developing it might be a little higher.
- Infections: Certain infections can increase a person’s chances of having MS, like EBV or mononucleosis.
- Deficiency of Vitamin D: It is suggested that low levels of Vitamin D in the body might affect the body’s immune system, which in turn increases a person’s chances of developing the condition. Statistics also support this.
- Deficiency of Vitamin B12: Our body uses Vitamin B when it produces myelin. Hence, deficiency of this vitamin could be linked with this medical condition.
- Smoking: People who smoke regularly usually tend to have more lesions and brink shrinkages as compared to non-smokers.
Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis
The diagnose test that your doctor will perform to determine whether you have MS will include the following:
- MRI scan: to detect active and inactive lesions throughout the brain and spinal cord.
- Blood tests: to help doctors eliminate other medical conditions with similar symptoms, and determine whether it is MS.
- OCT test: to assess thinning of the optic nerve.
- Spinal tap: to find any kind of abnormalities in your spinal fluid.
- VEP test: to analyze electrical activity in your brain. Brain system auditory and sensory-evoked potential tests were also used earlier to diagnose MS.
There is no cure for the condition at present, however, multiple treatments do exist.
- Disease-modifying therapies: They are generally aimed at lowering your relapse rates. There are a lot of drugs now available in the market after the Food and Drug Administration approved the first DMT for people with PPMS in 2017.
- Other than DMTs, a lot of drugs are prescribed by doctors a lot of times. However, the bottom line is that they must be consumed only on the advice of your doctor. MS is different for every person, with different types and worsening rates of symptoms. This makes it all the more important that the same drug might not be effective for two different people with MS. Therefore, we would recommend you to talk to your doctor about it, who will prescribe you the best treatment owing to your already existing medical problems, if any.
MS is a lifelong condition. Talk to your doctor at every step, keep yourself motivated, join some support group if you feel under confident or tired of your condition. Tackle your challenges, and be a step ahead of them!
We hope this article helps.