Facts about multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the nervous system. The body’s own immune system is attacking and destroying the myelin sheath that covers the nerve fibers of the central nervous system. Because this type of tissue does not have the capacity regenerate, the damage causes the myelin sheath to become scarred and hardened or sclerosed. The function of the myelin sheath is helps to potentiate the nerve conduction along nerve fibers. The scarring then results to demyelination of the nerve fibers, causing disruption in the transfer of electrical impulses to and from the brain. This condition is both chronic and progressive, leading to further degeneration of the nerve fibers that control all the major and vital organs of the body.
SUBTYPES OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
There are four subtypes of multiple sclerosis identified by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
1) Relapsing-Remitting MS: around 85-90% of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis have this type of course. It has a relapsing stage in which the person is experiencing a height of neurologic symptoms. Eventually, it is followed by a period of remission, a stage in which the person will have either incomplete or complete recovery with absence of disease progression. This relapse can last for months, or years
2) Primary-Progressive MS: around 10% of people with multiple sclerosis have this course of the disease. In this course, the person will have a gradual degradation in neurologic function. The degradation of neurologic function may peak at some point and may or may not have improvement. Usually people will experience this subtype after 40 years.
3) Secondary Progressive MS: around 65% of multiple sclerosis cases comprise this subtype. The worsening neurologic function can come in more steadily. A person may or may not experience flare-ups, remissions, or plateaus. In the absence of medication, a person with Multiple sclerosis will have a 50% chance of developing this condition.
4) Progressive-Relapsing MS: this is the rare type of multiple sclerosis. This subtype is characterized by steady decline in neurologic function, which can be superimposed by a flare-up during its course.
CAUSES, RISK FACTORS OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
The exact reason why multiple sclerosis develops in an individual is not exactly known. However, there are some environmental and genetic conditions that have been linked to the development of the disease, but none of them have been proven conclusive.
Genetics: although multiple sclerosis is not an inherited disease, there is a chance of a family member acquiring multiple sclerosis if a parent or sibling has the condition.
Gender: multiple sclerosis is 3 times more prevalent on women than on men. It is believed that hormones have something to do with the development and progression of the disease.
Age: commonly diagnosed among people between 20-50 years of age, but can appear in young children as well as teenagers.
Geographical location: Research revealed that those people living in areas farther from the equator are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis compared to those that live near the equator. It is suspected that sunlight exposure and presence of Vitamin D help protect people from being at risk in developing multiple sclerosis.
Stress: though it has been attributed to the existence of the disease and its exacerbation, the evidence is not that conclusive to fully back up the idea.
Other environmental factors: smoking, chemical exposure, toxins, and vaccinations have been attributed to the disease, but the case is still weak to form a solid conclusion.
Viral infection: human herpes virus, Varicella zoster virus, have been linked to multiple sclerosis, as well as infection of Epstein-Barr virus.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
Multiple sclerosis have a multitude of signs and symptoms that can mimic other medical conditions. Early symptoms include:
An overwhelming sense of tiredness that is not like any other that can happen with no apparent reason
25% of people that suffer multiple sclerosis experience visual problems that can occur during periods of exacerbation. This can include blurred or hazy vision, jerky eye movements (nystagmus) and double vision (diplopia)
Spasticity or muscular spasm
Other signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis can be of the following:
o Eye pain
o Color vision loss
o Partial or total blindness
o Pupillary reaction problems
o Slurred speech
o Muscle wasting
o Postural problems
o Tics, jerky, twitching movements
o Uncontrollable leg movements
o Dragging of foot while walking
o Partial numbness, tingling, vibrating sensations
o Complete loss of sensation
o Pain that cannot be traced to a cause
o Facial pain
o Loss of balance
o Shaking during fine motor movements
o Stuttering, difficulty in uttering words
Elimination and Sexual symptoms
o Urinary problems
o Failure to experience orgasm
o Retrograde ejaculation
o Bowel problems
o Mood swings
o Bipolar syndrome
o Short-term memory loss
o Retrograde and anterograde amnesia
o Gastrointestinal symptoms
Impaired sense of taste and smell
Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing
o Respiratory problems
o Increasing severity of symptoms when exposed to heat
As of now, there is no definite treatment or cure for multiple sclerosis. Treatment is usually supportive and symptomatic; more on addressing or resolving the signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis and making the disease more bearable. However, immuno-suppressants are given in an attempt to halt the progression of the disease.
Corticosteroids: given to relieve inflammatory symptoms that occur during relapse.
Beta Interferons: purpose of the drug is to slow down the rate in which signs and symptoms tend to worsen. Liver tests must be done before and during the course of the treatment because it can cause liver damage
Glatiramer (Copaxone): experts prescribe this drug in an attempt to block the immune system’s attack on the myelin sheath. This is injected subcutaneously once every day.
Natalizumab: prescribed when other forms of treatment for multiple sclerosis are not effective or tolerated. Because this drug inhibits the movement of immune cells from the blood stream to the brain, the person is at high risk in acquiring fatal brain infections. This drug is given to treat the relapsing subtypes of multiple sclerosis, and must not be used in conjunction with any other medications for the condition.
Mitoxantrone: used only when the person is at the late stage of the disease, and usually given for relapsing-remitting subtype of multiple sclerosis as well as secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis.
Research is still being done to fully understand multiple sclerosis. Although the internet can give alternative forms of treatment, usually these treatments are either in the testing phase or not generally given because of potential complications. Before you undergo treatment (conventional or alternative) you must first consult your doctor over the acceptability of the treatment modality.
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