Multiple Sclerosis is classified as an autoimmune disease. The body’s own immune system thinks the myelin sheath is a foreign body and attacks it. The Myelin sheath is the outer layer that protects the nerves. These attacks leave open areas known as plaques or lesions. This plaque makes it difficult for the nerves to send and receive messages. This miscommunication within the body, causes symptoms to occur.
MS seems to attack mostly women, between the ages of 20-40. It’s mainly seen in Caucasians from northern Europe, Southern parts of Canada, Northern region of the United States, Southeast Australia and New Zealand. Previous infections from the herpes virus, like Epstein Barr seems to be common among suffers. It’s also found that if you have other autoimmune diseases your chances for getting MS are greater. Genetics seems increases the chances, but isn’t the only factor. Studies show, that if one identical twin has the disease, the chances that the other develops the disease is 30%,
How Will my Disease Progress?
Because there are a variety of symptoms, it’s difficult to accurately predict the outcome of the disease. Some believe that the progression of the first five years will give them a baseline for how the next 10 years will evolve. Doctors also believe that if you have minimal disabilities in the first five years, you’ll probably remain ambulatory for the next 20. Research has also shown that life expectancy for MS patients, is equal to the general public.
What Occurs during the Course of MS?
There are two types of lesions chronic and acute. The chronic is older lesions, or scar tissue from earlier attacks. It isn’t presently active, but can become active. The acute is new active lesions that are highly inflamed. Once the inflammation decreases, it will become scar tissue, while a new lesion starts another cycle. This pattern continues during the duration of the disease. Because this disorder’s caused by nerve defects, the presenting symptoms depend on lesions location. The amount of damage and plaque location will determine how long the symptoms last.
MS suffers often have relapses. A relapse causes new symptoms to begin, or older symptoms to resurface. These symptoms continue without showing signs of improvement for at least 24 hours. When this happens, you should talk to your doctor immediately, so he can prescribe medicine to decrease the relapse time and the possible destruction. Sometimes a small increase in body temperature, being in a warm place for too long and exercising will exasperate symptoms. These symptoms usually decrease once the person cools down. This is known as Uhthoff’s phenomenon. Some people have what’s known as benign MS their condition remains unchanged even after an attack.
Although symptoms vary, I’ve listed the common ones.
1. People with MS will often have anxiety, fatigue and depression. This is thought to be caused from hormonal imbalances, pain and the progression of the disease.
2. Sometimes a person will have a short attention span, they will seem to be unorganized and forgetful.
3. Occasionally a person will cry or laugh uncontrollably, for no apparent reason. This is known as pseudo bulbar affect.
4. A person might have difficulty with their sight. This generally goes away after the swelling in the optic nerve goes down. During the inflammation a person could have blurry vision, or see double. They might have eye pain when they look sideways, or towards the ceiling.
5. Another symptom is weakness that’s caused by inflammation. It generally occurs in the legs, but can happen anywhere.
6. This weakness could be replaced with muscle spasms and twitching.
7. Sometimes they might have numbness, or prickly feelings in their extremities and their face.
8. Occasionally MS sufferer’s muscles will become tight, stiff, ridged making mobility difficult
9. They might experience fatigue it’s generally quick to appear and disappear within a couple of weeks.
10. People with MS can have sharp stabbing pain. It’s usually it’s in their arms, legs, lower back, but can occur anywhere on their body. They might have a burning paining in the legs and other places on their body. The burning pain usually occurs at night and is increased by the slightest touch .
11. They might experience face pain. It’s usually the cheek and is known as trigeminal neuralgia. This sharp brief pain lasts for a short amount of time, but can resurface several times during the day.
12. A person might have urinary urgency, frequency and possibly incontinence of their bowel and bladder. They could become constipated or have bouts of diarrhea.
13. A person with MS may not be interested in Sex, but they’re not infertile.
14. In extreme cases, someone could have seizure activity and difficulty breathing.
1. Beta interferon drugs are used to slow the progression and decrease the number of attacks. Liver tests and Complete blood counts need to be done often.
2. Copaxone blocks the immune system which stops attacks.
3. Gilenya stops the immune cells in the lymph nodes. You will need a chicken pox vaccine beforehand and monitor your pulse for 6 hours after the initial dose, since it causes bradycardia.
4. Tysabri is used to reduce attacks by causing a disruption in immune cell movement. Since it increases the chances of getting a serious brain infection known as PML it’s used as a last resort.
5. MItoxantrone suppresses the immune system. It can cause heart damage and cancers of the blood.
6. Ampyra helps with mobility.
7. Botox, injectable helps reduce muscle spasms.
8. Seizure medicine decreases muscle tremors.
9. Muscle relaxes to help reduces muscle spasms and stiffness.
11. Pain medicines to reduce pain.
12. Anti-depressants to help with depression.
13. Solu-Medrol decreases the inflammations.
14. Oral steroids to decrease inflammation.
A person with MS needs to get plenty of rest and find ways to reduce their stress levels. In addition, exercising and eating healthy will help decrease symptoms.