What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis causes the immune system to attack the central nervous system, specifically the myelin sheath that insulates and protects nerve fibers.
Multiple sclerosis causes the immune system to attack the central nervous system, specifically the myelin sheath that insulates and protects nerve fibers.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain) by damaging and destroying the protective myelin sheath around the nerve fibers. Someone with multiple sclerosis might develop problems with muscle control, vision, bladder control and other body functions. The distinctive feature of multiple sclerosis is symptoms may affect different parts of the body months or sometimes years apart.

What are usually the first signs of multiple sclerosis?

The effects of multiple sclerosis are often different for everyone who develops the disease. Some people have fewer symptoms and do not need treatment. Others will have trouble getting around and doing daily tasks. Below are a few common signs; the first five signs are the most common in patients with multiple sclerosis.

  1. Abnormal sensations (tingling sensation or paresthesia) are the most common and early symptom where a patient feels pricking sensation.
  2. Weakness
  3. Fatigue
  4. Muscle pain
  5. Nerve pain
  6. Blurred or double vision
  7. Speech and swallowing problems
  8. Bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction
  9. Body balance, thinking, and emotional problems
  10. Muscle cramps 
  11. Heat intolerance

What age do people get MS?

  • Multiple sclerosis is diagnosed in females from ages 20 to 40. It may occur at any age and can involve both genders.
  • It is possible to have MS begin in childhood or over 40 years of age, but it occurs less frequently in these age groups. 
  • Multiple sclerosis in children and teens is difficult to diagnose.

What are the causes of MS?

Doctors and researchers don’t fully understand the causes of multiple sclerosis, however there are few common risk factors: 

  • Viral infection: Some patients develop MS after viral infection (especially after Epstein-Barr virus or the human herpes virus 6 infection)
  • Environmental factors
  • Stress: Patients with increased stress are at risk of developing MS 
  • Smoking: Patients with history of smoking tobacco are at greater risk. 

How to diagnose multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is difficult to diagnose due to highly variable symptoms.  It is important to rule out other conditions when diagnosing MS. A neurologist usually takes medical history and orders the tests below:

  • Blood test
  • EEG (tests to measure electrical activity in brain and other areas)
  • MRI
  • Lumbar puncture (test to analyze spinal cord fluid). 
  • A few other tests help distinguish MS from stroke, thyroid-caused illness, or other diseases that cause similar symptoms to MS.

QUESTION

What kind of disease is multiple sclerosis? See Answer

What is the treatment for multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis has no cure, however; multiple treatments available may improve body function and debilitating symptoms. Doctors might prescribe pain killers, antidepressants and other drugs, like muscle relaxers, tranquilizers, or botulinum toxin (Botox), to ease muscle spasms and to make MS attacks shorter and less severe. 

Several drugs that may slowdown the disease and help in preventing nerve damage are used in treatment for MS which include:

Some studies suggest that vitamin D, which you synthesize from sunlight exposure, may strengthen your immune system and protect you from MS. Some people with higher chances of getting the disease move to sunnier regions to lower the risk of multiple sclerosis.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/30/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference
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