Imagine having a disease that can strike at any time which can leave you blind or paralyzed for days, months, or the rest of your lifetime. Your nerve cells have a protective covering called myelin. Without myelin, the brain and spinal cord can't converse with the nerves in the rest of the body. MS gradually destroys myelin in patches throughout the brain and spinal cord.
MS is a common neurologic illness, distressing nearly 300,000 Americans. It most often attacks otherwise healthy young men and women who are often just beginning to start families and making head for progress in their lives. It is the second most common neurologic cause of disability of young adults (after head trauma) in the United States. MS is generally classified according to the pattern of disease activity, particularly the degree of recovery of function, and the presence or absence of distinct flares. In the mildest form, "relapsing-remitting", patients have definite flares lasting days to months, followed by complete recovery. Patients with incomplete recovery from a flare, but without disease progression between flares are also classified as R/R. Over time, patients evolve from the R/R form into the "secondary-progressive”. About 10 percent of patients have steadily progressive deficits without any remission from the onset of the illness, and are classified as "primary-progressive" MS.
MS symptoms are significantly diverse. Many patients have mild sensory symptoms (tingling, burning, itching, warmth), frequent urination or profound fatigue. But in the absence of detectable abnormalities, the diagnosis of MS cannot be made until key symptoms develop. The key symptoms include weakness, paralysis, tingling or numbness of the limbs, loss of vision from one or both eyes, double vision, imbalance, incoordination, slurred speech, impaired bladder and bowel control, chronic pain, and profound fatigue. Neurologic illnesses, the tendency for symptoms to spontaneously disappear (remit) and recur in multiple locations are most characteristic of MS.
The diagnosis of MS is takes place through a neurologic examination and the history of characteristic neurologic symptoms. Combined, these two confirm involvement of at least two sites within the central nervous system. Neurologists now use brain imaging technology, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a primary tool for diagnosis.
Like many autoimmune disorders, MS excessively affects women --the ratio of women to men is about 2 to 1. MS is primarily a Caucasian disease, especially affecting those of northern European ancestry. Its prevalence is low in African blacks, Asians and other ethnic groups with little Caucasian admixture.
The treatment of MS is channeled by safe, well-tolerated drugs that not only speed recovery from acute flares, but also help to reduce the frequency of flares and partially retard progression of disability. Severe MS flares are generally treated with high doses of methylprednisolone, a synthetic adrenal steroid hormone similar to cortisone that has powerful effects upon the immune system and on inflammation, often shortening the flare. Betaseron and Avonex reduce the frequency of flares by about 30 percent in patients with R/R MS. Copaxone is introduced to patients with mild, early R/R disease.
Although the disorder is chronic and incorrigible, life expectancy can be normal. Most people with MS continue to walk and function with minimal disability for 20 or more years.
There is no way to prevent MS or its attacks. For individuals with RR MS, treatment with medicine may reduce the frequency of relapses and delay disability. Evade overheating your body whenever possible. Increased body temperature can provisionally make your symptoms worse by causing the nerves already affected by MS to function even more poorly.
The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.