An Overview of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis, also known as MS, affects approximately 1 out 1,000 people. Did you also know that women are affected more than men?
The cause of MS is unknown. Geographic studies indicate there may be an environmental factor involved. MS is more likely to occur in northern Europe, the northern United States, southern Australia, and New Zealand than in other areas.
Multiple Sclerosis is an inflammatory disease of the Central Nervous System which consists of the brain and spinal cord. It is also called the disease of the “white matter” tissue. White matter consists of nerve fibres which are responsible for transmitting communication signals both internally within the CNS and between the CNS and the nerves supplying the rest of the body.
Multiple Sclerosis can be very slow in destroying your CNS, which is why it makes it hard to characterize. People who are affected by this disease have patches of damage called plaques or lesions that seem to appear randomly on the CNS white matter. MS never affects any two people the same way and each individuals disease is unique only to him or her, just like fingerprints. The body's immune system attacks the outer nerve sheath or myelin , which causes scarring or sclerosis , and this scarring interferes with the transmission of the signals required for normal operation.
The most common symptoms of MS are sensory in nature including tingling, peculiar nerve sensations such as a “pins-and-needles” feeling over part of the body, numbness or paresthesias, clumsiness, weakness of a let or hand, visual disturbances. Recent research indicates that the biochemical make-up of lesions may vary between different forms of the disease, causing nerve damage to one site usually causes completely different symptoms than damage to another, and this is one of the reasons Multiple Sclerosis differs so widely between people.
People with MS can experience partial or complete loss of any function that is controlled by, or passes through, the brain or spinal cord. Inflammation happens in areas of the white matter of the central nervous system in patches and destruction of myelin is soon to follow. Myelin is the fatty covering that insulates nerve cell fibres in the brain and spinal cord. Other weaknesses occur in one or more of the extremities, slight stiffness or unusual fatigue of the limb, spastic involuntary movements, difficulty with bladder control, incontinence, vertigo, and in some cases mild emotional disturbances. Excessive heat may intensify symptoms.
Because the symptoms of MS vary and can be very unpredictable. It may affect the eyes first and usually only one eye at a time. One may notice blurred or double vision, blind spot, distortions of reds and greens, or blindness in both eyes. Certain muscles may become weak or extremely stiff and prone to spasms; you may start to have trouble talking because there are disturbance between the central nervous system and the rest of your body. Half of all patients with later stages of MS have problems with memory loss. Once a doctor suspects the disease he or she will order an MRI scan to look for signs on the brain and spinal cord. If you have any of the symptoms described here, go to your doctor and get checked out. The sooner you learn you have a disease, the sooner you can start fighting it.
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