14 Nov At the Center of Multiple Sclerosis
At the Center of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that many of us have heard about, as it’s thought to affect more than 2.3 million people worldwide. At its core, this disease disrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body by attacking the central nervous system (CNS) – a system made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. It’s a long-lasting disease for which the cause is still unknown, but scientists believe a variety of factors could be at play.
The Brain-Body Connection
In MS, the immune system attacks an important fatty material called myelin. This material wraps around nerve fibers as protection, so without it, nerves are susceptible to damage. Because of this vulnerability, scar tissue may form, causing the brain’s failure in sending signals throughout the body. This could result in difficulty moving and walking, as the body is unable to react and perform properly. Thankfully, about two-thirds of people with MS are still able to walk, even though they may require aid from cranes or crutches.
MS & the Search for a Cause
Although the cause of MS is unknown for now, factors such as gender, genetics, age, geography, and ethnic background are potential elements to the cause. Ongoing studies are focusing on the body’s immune system, patterns of the disease, and genetics to answer these questions of causation. Most individuals with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with two to three times more women than men being diagnosed.
Types of MS
- (RRMS) Relapsing-Remitting MS
- This is when people experience flare-ups for short periods of time with no symptoms between relapses.
- (SPMS) Secondary-Progressive MS
- RRMS can later advance to SPMS, which does not dramatically vary in symptoms, like RRMS. Instead, it has a slow and steady progression, with or without relapses.
- (PRMS) Progressive-Relapsing MS
- PRMS is one that steadily worsens from the onset with symptom flare-ups present.
- (PPMS) Primary-Progressive MS
- With this type of MS, individuals experience a steadily worsening of symptoms from the start and do not have periodic relapses and remissions.
The most common type of MS is RRMS, accounting for approximately 80 to 85 percent of all initial diagnoses. If left untreated, it is estimated that around half of those individuals with RRMS advance to SPMS. Only around 10 percent are diagnosed as PPMS, and only 5 percent with PRMS.
Symptoms of MS
Variable and unpredictable, MS symptoms are manifested differently in each person; they can also change or fluctuate over time. Some of the more common symptoms include the following:
- Speech problems
- Trouble swallowing
- Numbness or tingling
- Weakness, fatigue
- Vision problems
- Dizziness, vertigo
- Emotional and cognitive changes
- Difficulty walking
Lesser common symptoms include tremors, seizures, breathing problems, itching, hearing loss, and headaches.
MS in the Future
As there is no cure for now, treating MS comes down to slowing the progression and severity of the above symptoms. Physical therapy, medication, rehabilitation, alternative medicine, managing relapses, and other methods are helping individuals manage symptoms and maintain quality of life. Advances in research and treatment are leading us to better understanding, which will eventually help medical professionals stop this disease once and for all.