What Is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic disease that destroys the optic nerves, nerves in the spinal cord, and brain. People with MS develop multiple areas of scar tissue in response to the nerve damage. Symptoms of MS may include problems with speech, balance, muscle control, and vision.
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Symptoms of MS
Weakness or Numbness
Nerve damage can cause:
- Loss of balance
- Muscle spasms
- Weakness in an arm or leg
These symptoms may lead to frequent tripping or difficulty walking.
Though speech problems is less common than vision problems, but some people with MS develop slurred speech. This occur when MS destroys the nerves that carry speech signals from the brain. Some people also find it hard to swallow any substance.
Most people with MS experience a vision problem called optic neuritis. This inflammation of the optic nerve may cause eye pain, loss of color vision, blurred vision, or one-eye blindness. The problem is usually temporary and tends to improve within a few weeks. In many cases, vision problems are the first sign of MS.
Other Symptoms of MS
Multiple Sclerosis can affect mental sharpness. Some people may find it difficult to solve problems that may be considered trivial. Others may have mild memory loss or trouble concentrating. Some people experience loss of bladder control, because signals between the brain and bladder are broken up. Also, fatigue is a common problem associated with MS.
How is Stroke related to MS
Some symptoms of multiple sclerosis including slurred speech, muscle weakness, confusion can also be signs of a stroke. Anyone who suddenly has trouble speaking or moving his or her limbs should be immediately taken to the ER. Treating a stroke within the first few hours provides the best chances of a positive recovery.
How MS Attacks
In multiple sclerosis, the immune system of the body attacks the tissue surrounding the nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. This covering is made of a fatty substance called myelin. It insulates the nerves and aids them to send electrical signals that control movement, speech, and other functions. When myelin is damaged, scar tissue forms, and nerve messages are not accurately transmitted.
Causes of Multiple Sclerosis
The main cause of MS remain cryptic. However, doctors discover that the disease is most common in regions far from the equator, including Scandinavia and other parts of Northern Europe. These areas get less exposure to sunlight, so some researchers believe that vitamin D obtained from sunshine may partly be responsible. Research suggests a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune disorders, but studies are still ongoing. Also, genetics is suspected to be the cause too.
Who Gets MS?
MS is at least twice as common in women as it is in men. It can affect people of any race, but Caucasians appear to be mostly at risk. The chances of developing the condition are highest between ages 20 and 50.
Tests, medical history and neurological exam are often used to diagnose MS and rule out other causes. More than 90% of people with MS have scar tissue that shows up on an MRI scan. A spinal tap can check for irregularities in the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord. Tests to look at electrical activity of nerves can also help with diagnosing MS.
Forms of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is usually different in every person. Doctors usually notice these four forms:
Relapsing-remitting: Symptoms flare up during acute attacks, then improve nearly completely. This is the most common form.
Primary-progressive: MS slowly but progressively deteriorates.
Secondary-progressive: MS begins as relapsing-remitting type, then becomes more progressive.
Progressive-relapsing: MS steadily worsens. The patient has acute relapses, which may or may not remit. This is the least common form.
MS and Weather
Research suggests that the disease may be more active during the summer months. Heat and high humidity may also temporarily aggravate symptoms. Very cold temperatures and sudden changes in temperature may worsen symptoms, too.
Treating Multiple sclerosis
There is no cure for MS. However, there are “disease-modifying drugs” that can reduce the frequency and severity of the attacks. Use can result in less damage to the brain and spinal cord over time, slowing the progression of disability. When an attack does occur, high-dose corticosteroids can help cut it short.
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Most people with MS develop some form of pain. This may be either as a result of a short circuit in the nervous system or because of muscle spasms or strain. Doctors may recommend antidepressants and anticonvulsant medications to ease nerve pain. Pain medicines and anti-spasm drugs may also be used. Muscle pain often responds well to massage and physical therapy. Ensure to discuss the alternatives with your doctor in case of pain.
Physical therapy can help strengthen muscles and fight stiffness, so that the patient get to move around more easily. Occupational therapy can help retain coordination in your hands for dressing and writing. A speech therapy can help if you’re having trouble speaking or swallowing.
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MS and Pregnancy
It’s safe for women with MS to get pregnant, according to doctors. Study reveals that there’s no increased risk of complications during pregnancy. Many women have fewer MS symptoms during pregnancy. High levels of hormones and proteins may overwhelm the immune system, reducing the chances of a new attack. It’s best to see your doctor before pregnancy because certain MS drugs should not be used while pregnant or nursing.
Staying Mobile With MS
The vast majority of people with MS are able to continue walking, though many benefit from some type of assistive device. Orthotic shoe inserts or leg braces can help increase stability when walking. When one leg is stronger than the other, a cane can come in handy. People having problems with their legs may need to use a walker. A wheelchair or scooter may be best for those who are very unsteady or tire easily. It may be helpful to make a few changes around the home to assist you personally manage daily activities. Install grab bars inside and outside the shower or tub. Use a non-slip mat. Add an elevated seat and safety rails to the toilet. Lower one of your kitchen counters so you can reach it from a sitting position.
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MS workouts can reduce fatigue, stiffness, and other symptoms. However, overdoing it could deteriorate the condition. It’s best to start slowly. Try exercising for 10 minutes at a time, then gradually work your way up to a longer session. Consult with your doctor about what type of activity and level of intensity would be most appropriate before you begin. Some exercises include yoga, tai chi, swimming, and water aerobics, swimming.