What Is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition that attacked the nervous system. It may not have a cure, but recent research has linked has shown the potential of various treatments that reduce MS symptoms. Learn all about multiple sclerosis here.

9 minute read

Last Updated July 1, 2020

What Is Multiple Sclerosis - Joint - 1MD

Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune condition where your immune system mistakenly attacks the nervous system. As a result, the myelin sheath that protects your nerves becomes damaged, leaving your nerves exposed and vulnerable.

Nerves in this condition lose the ability to transmit electrical signals, and neurological as well as physical functions begin to deteriorate.

Multiple Sclerosis Causes

The myelin sheath provides a protective coating for your nerves, and this is damaged by attacks from your immune system. This autoimmune condition is thought to be triggered by an environmental toxin or virus.

Once under attack, the nerves become inflamed, and scar tissue or lesions can form. Signals between your brain and the rest of your body are disrupted, and function becomes impaired.

While MS cannot be inherited, some studies show having a sibling or parent with MS increases your risk of developing it too.

Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

MS can affect any part of your body, and symptoms can develop all at once, or they can be mild and easily dismissed. The early signs of Multiple Sclerosis include:

Vision disturbances: This can be blurry vision, partial vision loss, double vision, and even red-green color distortion

Sensation changes: Tingling, numbness, and pain can occur in your arms, legs, or along one side of your face. The sensations are similar to pins and needles, except they will be caused for no obvious reason

Weakness: You may find that you lose your balance easier, experience muscle weakness, and difficulty with coordination

Changes in thinking: This can include forgetfulness, memory loss, problems with abstract thinking, and attention-related difficulties

It is important to remember that these symptoms may be caused by another condition, so if you notice them, consult your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis.

Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis

The diagnosis of MS requires doctors to find evidence of demyelination (damage to myelin), and this needs to have occurred at different times in more than one area of the brain.

Testing for diagnosis typically involves:

♦ MRI scans to detect active and inactive lesions in the brain or spinal cord
♦ A spinal tap to look for abnormalities in the spinal fluid to help rule out infectious diseases
♦ Blood tests to eliminate conditions that may present with similar symptoms
♦ Visual evoked potential tests, which stimulate nerve pathways to analyze brain electrical activity

Treatment for MS

Without a cure, the best approach that doctors have for MS is medication and drug treatment to address the symptoms. A group of drugs known as DMTs (disease-modifying therapies) are used to slow the disease and lower relapse rates. These medications are available as self-injectable options, oral medications, and intravenous infusion treatments.

Not all medications work for all individuals, so you need to discuss the options with your doctor first. It is essential to adhere to the recommended schedule in order to get the best results.

Diet for MS

Certain foods and diets can help those with MS by influencing the immune system and the nerves. Because your immune system is largely influenced by the bacteria living in your gut, individuals with MS benefit from diets full of probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or event taking supplements.

Specialists also developed a diet known as the Swank diet, which has been found to help those with MS. This diet includes:

♦ Reduced saturated fat intake
♦ Limited consumption of red meat (eating none for the first year)
♦ Cutting down on processed foods and dairy fats
♦ Eating more fish and shellfish
♦ Eating whole grain pasta
♦ Eating at least 2 cups of fresh fruits and vegetables each day

Natural Treatments for MS

Dietary changes, in addition to medical treatments, can significantly help reduce MS symptoms. You can also make some lifestyle changes, and try more natural approaches to alleviate discomfort and improve your quality of life.

Losing weight has a beneficial impact on those with MS because excess weight makes mobility even more challenging. Diet and the right exercise can help shed pounds and promote flexibility and strength.

The best exercises will promote weight loss as well as encourage flexibility and lower stress. Try yoga and Tai Chi to reduce stress and inflammation and help control weight.

Relaxation is a great benefit to reducing MS symptoms by encouraging a positive attitude and lowering inflammation that can aggravate symptoms. Massages, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, and music therapy have been shown to effectively relax MS patients.

What are the Variations of MS?

There are four different types of Multiple Sclerosis that you should know about.

1. Clinically Isolated Syndrome

CIS involves one episode of the symptoms lasting for about 24 hours. The episodes are characteristic of MS but are not frequent enough to allow for a diagnosis.

2. Relapsing-Remitting MS

RRMS shows clear relapses of the disease followed by remissions. Remission times show mild symptoms or can be completely absent.

3. Primary Progressive MS

PPMS is marked by the progressive worsening of neurological function with the chance of short periods of stability.

4. Secondary Progressive MS

SPMS occurs when RRMS transitions into PPMS, and symptoms that were regressive noticeably get worse, and function deteriorates. There are no longer periods of remission.

MS Statistics

♦ MS is the most widespread neurological condition disabling young adults across the world.
♦ Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50.
♦ MS is more common among women than men, with RRMS showing two to three times more often in women and PPMS rates being equal for both genders.
♦ RMSS is the most common form of MS at the onset, accounting for about 85% of all cases.
♦ Current costs for DMTs for RRMS is close to $60,000 a year.
♦ Rates of MS tend to be lower in areas closer to the equator, thought to be a result of vitamin D and sunlight exposure.

MS and Disability

Because MS affects your nervous system, the symptoms can be severe enough to disrupt your life and work.

There is no known cure for MS, and despite treatments and medications being available to help alleviate symptoms, the condition can deteriorate to the point that you qualify for disability. If your MS symptoms are preventing you from performing daily duties, speak with your doctor about the next steps, in case you are no longer able to work.

MS and Children

MS can also be diagnosed in children, with statistics showing between 8,000 and 10,000 cases under the age of 18 each year. There may be even more children that have yet to be diagnosed.

MS in children often progresses slowly, and there are usually more emotional effects seen in children than with adults. Symptoms are similar to adult patients, but children are more prone to seizures and lack of energy.

There is no cure for child-onset MS, but treatments can help with symptoms and slow progression.

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

MS is a lifelong condition, and there is no cure. You will need to accept that you will be facing challenges over time, and they may change over time too. MS can come and go or progress to worse stages, which is why communicating with your doctor about any changes is essential.

Learn all that you can about MS and the possible treatments, both medical and natural. With early diagnosis and effective treatment strategies, you can cope with MS and navigate your life more effectively.

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