What Is Multiple Sclerosis? Multiple Sclerosis Signs and Symptoms
Write a list of common medical problems. You probably include diabetes and heart disease, and you should.
But multiple sclerosis afflicts nearly one million Americans. Roughly 200 Americans are diagnosed every week with the condition. Despite its prevalence, few people know about it, and few people know what to do after a diagnosis.
What is multiple sclerosis, and what are its signs? What are the different types of multiple sclerosis? How can someone receive treatment for it?
Answer these questions and you can become part of the solution for multiple sclerosis. Here is your quick guide.
The Basics of Multiple Sclerosis
A person’s nerves have protective sheaths called myelin. Myelin prevents the nerves from being damaged and it helps the nerves transmit signals throughout the body.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) occurs when the body’s immune system overreacts to myelin. It sends out signals that indicate that myelin is an invader. Immune cells began to attack the nerves, dissolving the myelin down through time.
Most people experience MS in their brain and spinal cord nerves. This can impair the brain’s ability to send out signals to the rest of the body.
MS is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system is mistakingly attacking the body. Someone may experience multiple autoimmune diseases at once, including inflammatory bowel disease. There is no cure for MS or most autoimmune disorders.
Multiple Sclerosis Signs and Symptoms
There are common multiple sclerosis symptoms, but not everyone shares them. Most people experience numbness or weakness in one hand or leg. They may feel weakness on both sides of their body, but they usually experience it on one side at a time.
As MS progresses, a person may lose the ability to control their limbs. Their hands and feet may shake, especially when they exert themselves. They find it hard to walk long distances or hold objects for periods of time.
Other people feel sensations similar to electric shocks. The shocks may radiate down from their neck into their back or arms. These sensations often occur when they move their neck forward.
Someone may experience problems with their vision as well. They may begin to lose sight in one eye, then in their other eye. Their vision may become blurry, or it may become painful to keep one’s eyes open.
Less common multiple sclerosis signs include:
- Dizziness, especially when standing up
- Slurred speech
- Tingling in the chest or back
- Sharp muscle pain
- Inability to control the bowels or bladder
Anyone who has MS symptoms for a few months should go and see their doctor. It is very important to start treatment early, as it is hard to recover hand-eye coordination once it is lost.
Types of MS
Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) is the most common type of MS. A person goes through periods of time when their symptoms are severe. During other times, their symptoms may lessen or disappear entirely.
Secondary progressive MS involves progressively worsening symptoms. Someone may initially experience periods of time when their symptoms go away. But over time, their symptoms become more impairing until they sustain disabilities.
Primary progressive MS involves no relapses. Someone experiences a progression of their symptoms that leads to partial or total disability.
Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) is a first episode of multiple sclerosis symptoms. Many people with CIS eventually develop MS, but not everyone. People who experience lesions on their brain after CIS have a higher likelihood of developing MS.
Doctors know that MS comes from an immune system malfunction. But they don’t know what triggers the immune system to attack the nerves in the first place.
Scientists have identified more than 200 genetic markers related to MS. The more markers a person has, the more likely they are to develop the condition. Yet the majority of people with MS do not have parents or siblings with the condition.
There are a few risk factors associated with MS. Many people develop symptoms when they are between the ages of 20 and 40. Women are more likely to experience MS than men.
People who experience viral infections are also more likely to experience MS. The Epstein-Barr virus triggers mononucleosis. The virus may trigger a large immune response that causes the body to attack myelin fibers.
The symptoms of MS are similar to other autoimmune diseases. As such, a doctor cannot use a person’s symptoms for a diagnosis. They must look at MRI scans and blood tests to see if a person has biomarkers associated with MS.
Once someone is diagnosed, they can start multiple sclerosis treatment. Treatment is individualized, so there is no one treatment that all people pursue.
Corticosteroids are medications that can reduce inflammation in the nerves. This can make MS attacks less severe.
An individual may also receive plasma exchanges. Doctors remove the liquid portion of their blood and add a protein solution to it. The mixture then goes into their body, and the protein solution helps build the myelin back.
Physical therapy can help someone in the late stages of MS. A therapist can teach a person how to use a mobility aid so they can walk long distances. The person can build muscle strength so they don’t feel intense weakness during attacks.
Integrative health can include inflammation reduction and genetic testing. A person can adjust their diet to give their body the nutrients it needs to recover from MS attacks.
The Essentials of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a serious matter. It occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks the nerves. Symptoms include muscle weakness, loss of coordination, and fatigue.
Someone may experience intense episodes of symptoms, and their condition may get gradually worse. There is no clear cause of or cure for MS.
Yet a person can pursue several different treatments. Medications can reduce the severity of symptoms while integrative health solutions can reduce inflammation.
You can get help for MS when you need it, and the best approach is to keep close tabs on your health by scheduling annual wellness and physical exams with your primary care provider. Blue Sky MD Health serves the Hendersonville area. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.