What is Multiple Sclerosis?
This is a medical disease of your central nervous system. At this time it is considered an autoimmune disease which is when your immune system attacks and then damages your nerve cells of your spinal cord and brain. It is a potentially debilitating disease. In layman’s terms, multiple sclerosis is a medical disease in which your immune system eats the sheath that covers and protects the nerves in your spinal cord and brain. When this happens there is communication interference between your spinal cord, brain, and other areas of the body. It appears to affect women more than men between the ages of twenty to forty years of age. There are approximately two point five million people world-wide that have multiple sclerosis with approximately four hundred thousand of them living in the United States.
Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
The symptoms of multiple sclerosis depend on where the affected nerve fibers are located so they can vary. Some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis are:
- In one or more limbs a person may experience weakness or numbness
- You could have complete or partial loss of your central vision. It is usually happens in only one eye and when you move the eye there can be pain. This is called optic neuritis.
- Blurring or double vision
- Having pain or tingling in various parts of your body.
- Certain head movement that might cause sensations that feel like electric-shock.
- Unsteady gait, tremors, or lack of coordination.
- Speech that is slurred
- Feeling fatigued
- Being dizzy
- Difficulties with swallowing
- Difficulties with your bowels
- Mood swings or depression
- Memory and thinking problems and cognitive impairment.
In addition, some people with this medical condition may experience heat sensitivity which means that tiny increases in your body’s temperature can worsen or trigger the symptoms. In the beginning stages most people will experience relapses of the symptoms and then can be followed by partial or complete periods of remission of the symptoms. There are even people who have the benign form in which the disease remains stable and does not progress to more serious forms of multiple sclerosis after the first attack.
Multiple Sclerosis Causes
Physicians are not exactly sure what can trigger the onset of multiple sclerosis but many consider it an autoimmune disease. There are several factors that can affect the development of this medical condition such as:
- If you are female between the ages of twenty and forty years of age
- Having a family history of multiple sclerosis although it is not considered to be a hereditary medical condition. It seems that there are some people who have a genetic predisposition to develop multiple sclerosis.
- It is more prevalent in areas of the world that are not near the equatorial region and receive very little sunlight causing a vitamin D deficiency.
- Exposure to certain bacteria and viruses
- Emotional and physical stress
- Exposure to certain toxins
In order for the physician to give a diagnosis of having multiple sclerosis or not, they will do:
- Give you a physical examination for evaluation
- Review your medical history
- Look at your symptoms and review them
They may also do a variety of other tests to rule out any other conditions with similar symptoms to multiple sclerosis such as:
- Blood tests to rule out some other inflammatory or infectious diseases with similar symptoms.
- Lumbar puncture or spinal tap so the physician can test your spinal fluid for any type of abnormalities that can be associated with this medical condition. They are looking for an abnormal level of proteins or white blood cells.
- An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to get detailed images of your spinal cord, brain, and other areas of the body to see if there are any lesions that could be due to the loss of myelin, which is the protective cover around your nerve fibers, loss in your spinal cord and brain. If you do have lesions it could be the cause of other conditions such as migraine headaches, diabetes, or lupus.
- The physician may inject a dye into your blood vessel in order to highlight any active lesions so they can see if the disease is in an active phase even if you do not have any symptoms at the time.
- The physician may also do an evoked potential test to measure the electric signals that are sent by your brain in response to the electrical stimuli. They can also apply this to your arms or legs to see if there is any nerve damage or lesions in the optic nerves, spinal cord, or brainstem.
The bottom line is that there is no cure for multiple sclerosis so treatment consists of focusing on treating the attacks, reducing the progress of multiple sclerosis, and help in manages symptoms.
Treating the attacks
- Using corticosteroids to help reduce the inflammation that often spikes when you have a relapse. These could be intravenous and oral prednisone
- Plasma exchange which involves removing some of your blood to separate your plasma from the blood cells. After this is done the physician will mix a replacement solution with your blood cells and then infuse it back into your body. This treatment may be used for people have severe symptoms during relapses that do not respond to steroids given intravenous.
Slowing the progress
- Being given beta interferon’s which is medication such as Extavia or Avonex to help reduce the number and severity of the attacks and slow the progress.
- You may be prescribed the medication Copaxone to also help reduce the number of attacks by blocking your immune system from attacking the myelin. This medication is injected under your skin one time each day.
- You may be prescribed Gilenya, which is an oral medication taken once a day to trap your immune cells in your lymph nodes to help decrease short-term disability and attacks. Before you take this medication after your first dose your heart rate has to be monitored for six hours. You also have to be immune to the chickenpox virus.
- Another medication you may be prescribed is Tysabri to help decrease the number of attacks by interfering the movement of immune cells in the bloodstream that could damage your spinal cord and brain.
- Another medication you may be prescribed is Mitoxantrone but it can harm your heart so it is reserved for severe, active, and advanced cases.
- Another medication you may be prescribed is Aubagio to help decrease the lesions and attacks.
- Physical therapy
- You may be prescribed Ampyra to help improve your walking
- Medication to help your muscles relax
- Medications to help decrease the feeling of fatigue
- Other medications may be prescribed to help the pain, bowel or bladder control problems, and depression
Most people who have multiple sclerosis will have a normal life span but approximately seventy percent who have this medical condition will face physical limitation eventually. There has been research that states in women who have multiple sclerosis their life span is shortened by six years and a man’s life span is shortened by eleven years. Out of every three people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis one of them will be able to work fifteen to twenty years. Because there is such a variety of stages and symptoms that vary from person to person giving an exact prognosis is difficult.
On average, the life expectancy from the first appearance of the symptoms is thirty-five years. There are things that you can do to increase the life expectancy of a person with multiple sclerosis they need to learn to take good care of they body, their brain, and their heart. Thinking positive, making sure that you are following a healthy diet, and exercising. You should also make sure that you are keeping your brain sharp, maintain a healthy weight, and try to get enough rest and learn to relax to help reduce the stress in your life. Doing these simple things you may be able to increase your life expectance approximately seven and a half years.
Multiple Sclerosis Pictures
Pictures of Multiple Sclerosis…