What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a long-term autoimmune disease that can affect the central nervous system, i.e. the brain and the spinal cord. This disease can affect your vision, balance, muscle control and other functions of the body. The effects of this disease differ from patient to patient.
Eventually, this disease can permanently damage the nerves in the body.
In this article we will look at:
- How does multiple sclerosis occur?
- Who is prone to multiple sclerosis?
- Symptoms of multiple sclerosis
- Diagnosis of multiple sclerosis
- Complications of multiple sclerosis
- Treatment for multiple sclerosis
You can click on any of the links above to navigate to the section of your interest.
How does multiple sclerosis occur?
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder which occurs when the body’s immune system starts attacking its own tissues. The immune system of our bodies is responsible for defending the body from external viruses and bacteria. Autoimmune disorders occur when the immune system of the body starts attacking its own cells.
In the case of multiple sclerosis, the malfunctioning immune system starts destroying myelin, which is the fatty substance that protects the nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. It is much like the insulation covering electrical cables. Once the myelin is damaged the nerves are exposed and may get damaged, which in turn affects the messages that travel through the nerve to the brain and back.
Who is prone to multiple sclerosis or what are the risk factors of multiple sclerosis?
People who are more prone to multiple sclerosis include:
- Women more than men
- People who are deficient in vitamin D
- People born in spring
- People who overindulge in smoking
- People in the age group 15 to 50 years
- Those who have a family history of multiple sclerosis
- People infected with certain viral infections such as Epstein-Barr, the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis
- People suffering from thyroid disease, diabetes type 1 or inflammatory bowel disease have a slightly higher risk of multiple sclerosis
What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis? How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?
The signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis can vary from patient to patient. Some patients show experience almost negligible symptoms, others experience severe symptoms. The symptoms depend on the location of affected nerve fibers.
Some signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:
- double vision
- complete or partial loss of vision in eyes starting with one eye at a time.
- constant fatigue
- lack of coordination
- weakness and numbness in one or more limbs of the body and also in the trunk
- pain in parts of your body
- tingling sensation in parts of your body
- electric shock-like sensation with certain neck movements
- slurred speech
- disturbed bowel and bladder function
Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis
If you suffer from any of the symptoms you need to visit a general practitioner. Based on the severity of your symptoms, and the test results he may refer you to a neurologist.
The tests that the doctor may advise you to undertake are:
- Blood tests to rule out other diseases which have similar symptoms to multiple sclerosis
- Lumbar puncture or spinal tap in which a small sample of fluid is removed from your spinal canal for laboratory analysis.
- MRI which can reveal the areas that have been affected by multiple sclerosis
- Evoked Potential tests which can record the electrical signals produced by your nervous system in response to stimuli and thus measure how quickly the information travels down your nerve pathways.
What are the complications of multiple sclerosis?
The complications of multiple sclerosis include:
- paralysis especially in the legs
- mood swings
- muscle stiffness or spasms
- problems with bladder, bowel or
- sexual dysfunction
What is the treatment for multiple sclerosis?
Medical Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis
Although there is no permanent cure for multiple sclerosis, the doctor may prescribe medicines which can help you manage the symptoms of the disease. These medicines curb the immune system and prevent flare-ups and slow down the advance of the disease.
If the symptoms are too severe, such as severe tremors, the doctor may suggest you undergo surgery which can help control the symptoms.
Exercising is good not only for your overall wellbeing but also for managing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Before you decide on an exercise regimen, it is suggested you consult your doctor to find out what kind of exercise will suit you the most.
Exercises such as swimming, water aerobics, strength training, balance training can be very effective to prevent the advance of the disease.
Did you know?
Mostly young people affected
Multiple sclerosis, a disabling disease which strikes mostly young people, is fast becoming a cause for worry in India.
Average age band
Around 70-80 percent of patients were in the age group of 18-35 years.
Number of patients in India
It is estimated that there are between 100,000-2,00,000 MS patients in India.
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