Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic neurological illness that affects the central nervous system. The CNS consists of the brain and the spinal cord and is composed of many nerve cells. In multiple sclerosis (MS) damage to the myelin coating around the nerve fibers in the central nervous system (CNS) and to the nerve fibers themselves interferes with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body. When you have this Disruption between the nerve fibers, the nerve signals cause the symptoms of MS. The symptoms from MS vary from one person to another and over time for any given individual, depending on where the damage occurs will determine the type of symptoms that a person may exhibit. Eventually, the disease can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged. Multiple sclerosis predominantly affects young adults during their most productive years. Approximately 350,000-400,000 people in the United States are afflicted with MS. It has been estimated that two-thirds of the population with MS are women. The average age of onset is the mid-thirties, although the age range of diagnosis may be between 20-50 years of age. The explanation for the high prevalence of MS in women and the age of onset are both areas that researchers are currently investigating. Viral and autoimmune etiologies are postulated. Genetic and environmental factors are known to contribute to MS, but a specific cause for this disease is not identified.
Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms.Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of MS, occurring in about 80 percent of people. It can significantly interfere with a person's ability to function at home and work, and is one of the primary causes of early departure from the workforce. Fatigue may be the most prominent symptom in a person who otherwise has minimal activity limitations.The cause of MS fatigue is currently unknown. Ongoing studies seek an objective test that can be used as a marker for fatigue, and for precise ways to measure it. Some people with MS say that family members, friends, co-workers or employers sometimes misinterpret their fatigue and think the person is depressed or just not trying hard enough. Visual disturbances can be the first early symptom of MS in some people. The vision changes can include blurred vision, distortions, or loss of vision in one eye. The vision symptoms can be accompanied by eye pain. Other symptoms can include tingling, numbness, prickling pain, or muscle spasms in the arms and legs that may occur at one or multiple sites. Weakness in the arm and leg muscles may occur, and this can sometimes affect balance and posture, causing clumsiness or lack of coordination. Other symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, and difficulties with speech, tremors, heat intolerance, and loss of sensation. Sexual dysfunction and loss of bladder or bowel control can develop in more serious cases.
Mental changes can also occur as symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Memory loss, decreased ability to concentrate, attention deficits, an inability to perform sequential tasks, and changes in judgment have all been reported. Depression, mania, paranoia, and uncontrollable urges to laugh or weep are other symptoms that have been described. MS is caused by an autoimmune reaction that destroys the myelin sheath (protective covering) of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The exact reason that the autoimmune reaction occurs is not understood, but both genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a role.
There are many treatments that can alter the course of your disease. There is a group of medications referred to as, "Immuno-Modulating Agents or "IMA's" also commonly referred to as the "ABC's". These drugs include Avonex®, Betaseron, and Copaxone In the event that a patient has not responded or is no longer responding to the IMA’s, other therapies such as IVIG or Mitoxantrone may be used alone or in combination with IMA’s. The introduction of these secondary therapies are often associated with long periods of clinical remission.