Multiple Sclerosis or MS is a progressive, chronic illness that afflicts the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord by causing the disruption of the myelin sheath that protects and insulates the nerve cells.
The disruption of the protective covering greatly curtails the function of the CNS and other bodily responses.
According to Medicinewstoday, the diagnosis of this widespread autoimmune disease is hard to predict since it usually afflicts people between ages 20 to 50.
The other risk factors for Multiple Sclerosis include ethnicity, sex, and genetic factors. Women are more predisposed to contracting the disease compared to men.
In terms of ethnicity, the disease is more common in people with European ancestry. Research has also shown that people susceptible to the disease run the risk of passing it down the family tree through the genes.
The other possible risks include consuming too much salt, exposure to toxic substances and infection by viruses such as Varicella Zoster and Epstein Barr.
The four main classifications of Multiple sclerosis are namely; Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), Relapse-remitting MS (PPMS), Primary progressive MS (PPMS) and Secondary progressive MS (SPMS). The CIS is the first episode of MS.
Its symptoms often last about 24 hours. RRMS is easily the most common type of MS as it affects over 84% of people with MS.
When the disease progresses to the PPMS state, the symptoms often worsen, even though remissions or early relapses are difficult to note at this stage.
The SPMS type of MS usually comes about after the initial episode of relapses and progresses steadily thereafter. Multiple Sclerosis does not have a cure; however, treatment to relieve and manage the various symptoms does exist.
The symptoms of Multiple sclerosis you should know about
The symptoms of MS are very difficult to predict and can vary greatly from one person to the other depending on the intensity.
According to Healthline, the most common symptoms include vision problems, bladder issues, tingling and numbness, cognitive challenges and pain and spasm.
Most people with MS suffer vision problems, which often disrupt the central vision and affect the normal functioning of the optic nerve.
This slow but progressive symptom can lead to serious vision problems. Chronic pain and spasm or muscle stiffness are the other common symptoms of MS.
Chronic pain and spasm are sometimes accompanied by irrepressible, stiff joints and painful shuddering of the extremities.
Since MS mostly affects the CNS, the signals sent by the brain and spinal cord may be conflicting and can lead to numbness. Tingling sensation and numbness in the legs, fingers, and arms are considered early warning symptoms of MS.
Chronic fatigue and weakness affect 80% of MS sufferers. This early stage symptom mostly occurs when the spinal column nerves deteriorate.
The condition can last several weeks and majorly affects the legs before moving into other parts of the body. Bladder and bowel dysfunction also affects a sizable, 8 in 10 people with MS.
People suffering from bladder and bowel dysfunction often experience a strong urge to urinate and must urinate frequently.
The other notable symptoms of MS include hearing loss, difficulty swallowing, breathing problems, seizures, diarrhea, constipation and relentless shaking.
Multiple Sclerosis Tests
Although there are no specific tests that must be undertaken to diagnose Multi sclerosis, the doctor will evidently request for the patient’s medical history.
According to Mayo Clinic, some of the most commonly requested tests include blood tests, MRI, Spinal tap and Evoked potential tests.
The blood tests are critical are assisting the doctor to eliminate other diseases with similar symptoms as MS. The spinal tap test involves the removal of fluid from the spinal column for a thorough analysis.
Besides extricating other diseases, the laboratory tests can also be used to unravel any signs of abnormalities in the antibodies common in MS.
The MRI test, on the other hand, is normally conducted to expose the presence of the brain and spinal cord lesions or lacerations associated with MS.
Lastly, the Evoked potential test uses visual or electrical stimuli emitted by the nervous system to analyze the visual patterns and electrical impulses associated with MS in the extremities.
The team of health care professionals tasked with treatment and management of Multiple Sclerosis includes; radiologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, neurologists and primary care providers among others.
Treatment Options for Multiple Sclerosis
Treatment for Multiple sclerosis can take different forms depending on the diagnosis. Since there are no direct fixes, treatment usually focuses on managing the illness and trying as much as possible to help the patients lead a normal life in spite of the illness.
The best way to approach and diagnosis the disease is via a thorough examination of the patient by the doctor, neurologist, and other healthcare professionals.
As a word of precaution, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) has stayed clear of endorsing any medication, treatment regimen or product earmarked for the treatment of MS.
According to Multiplesclerosis.net, the following strategies and recourses can help manage Multiple sclerosis symptoms over the long term:
1. Multiple sclerosis symptoms management
As pointed out earlier, the symptom of MS can vary greatly depending on the severity of the attack and the individual’s health status.
It is important to note that comprehensive Multiple sclerosis care and treatment begins with diagnosis and often lasts throughout the patient’s life.
One way to tackle MS is to manage the symptoms using a host of plausible approaches. The most widely applied symptom management approaches include the use of various drugs and a range of therapies, including occupational therapy, physical therapy, and mental health services. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and massage may also be recommended.
2. Managing relapses
Common MS symptoms such as relapses often occur even with best management strategies in place. However, the condition can be managed easily, even with no treatment.
The doctor may prescribe several medications to arrest the situation and speed the recovery process, especially if the symptoms become severe.
It is important to reiterate that the goal of seeking MS treatment is to control the inflammation caused by the damage visited upon the CNS.
One way to do this is covering the leaks in the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) to give the brain ample time to reconstitute and self-heal. A doctor may also prescribe oral or intravenous infusion of corticosteroids to manage relapse.
The IVSM (Intravenous methylprednisolone) can also be offered in about 4 courses, but this depends on the severity of the relapse. The dosage may be accompanied by infusing a gram (1,000mg) of steroids on a daily basis.
The other common drug categories for treating relapse-remitting MS include Beta interferons, Fingolimod and Dimethyl fumarate drugs.
3. Changing the course of Multiple Sclerosis
Studies have shown that the course of MS can be reverted by taking a class of medications known as Disease Modifying Drugs (DMDs) or Disease Modifying Treatments (DMTs).
DMDs can be taken via injection or orally to decrease the instances of relapse and development of the brain or spinal cord lesions. DMDs have, however, been shown to be effective when taken to treat early onset MS types like Clinically Isolated syndrome.
Because of the broad base nature of the disease, the rehabilitation plan for a person with MS usually involves the input of several health care professionals, including a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and physiatrists who specialize in rehab aspects. The choice of the treatment regimen is largely guarded by the nature of the disability.
A typical program for an MS sufferer may involve exercising and using medications to address common issues associated with the disease such as difficulties with speech, challenges with vision, cognitive issues, musculoskeletal issues and mobility problems among other symptoms.
5. Seeking psychosocial support
The net effects of MS can affect several faculties in the human body, from mental health acuity to social aspects such as interpersonal relationships.
Because of its far-reaching implications, psychosocial intervention is highly critical in the management process since it can help the affected individual to live to their full potential.
Mental health experts play an important role in the setup by addressing issues like mood changes, anxiety and depression while neuropsychologists are trained to examine and treat the cognitive issues.
Besides the healthcare trained professionals, social workers, psychologists, counselors as well as family and close circle of friends may also be called in to lend their support.
Multiple sclerosis treatments and therapy support video
In this YouTube video, Professor of Neurology at Mayo Clinic, Dean Wingerchuck provides an overview of MS treatment, new therapies and other helpful insights.
MS is a progressive disease that interferes with the normal function of the CNS. In spite of its effects, people suffering from Multiple sclerosis have the same life expectancy as those without the disease.
This is possible via proper diagnosis and treatment. Benign symptoms of MS can easily be identified with MRI imaging.
However, if the disease is left untreated, it can develop into more debilitating pneumonia and cause mobility problems. At the extreme point is the more deadly variant of Multiple sclerosis called Marburg MS.