Multiple sclerosis is a disease that you may be familiar with in terms of name, but you may not know the particulars. Here is an abbreviated overview of multiple sclerosis (hereby shortened to MS).
MS is an inflammatory disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord. It was first described in 1868 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. The name ‘multiple sclerosis’ describes multiple scars or lesions, as seen on the brain and spinal cord.
MS works by causing the patient’s own immune system to attack and destroy myelin, an insulating substance in the body that sheathes axons, which are the fibers the body’s nervous system commands travel through. When the myelin is lost, the brain cannot effectively communicate with the body. To put it in simple terms, it would be as if the insulation on the cable leading to your television was damaged. Your cable signal would be weak and interrupted, if it functioned at all.
Symptom’s of MS are extremely varied, and can include almost any neurological symptom, such as loss or change of sensation, cognitive disability, and emotional disturbances. Muscle weakness is also a common symptom.
There is no proven cause of MS, although risks are higher within families of those with the disease. Some other factors which increase risk are smoking, vitamin D deficiency, and herpes infection, to name a few.
Diagnosis of MS can be difficult, since many of the symptoms can describe other problems. Currently doctors use the McDonald criteria for assisting diagnosis. This criteria presents a set of issues that if met, can mean the patient has MS.
There is no cure for MS, but there are treatments to help manage attacks. Corticosteroids can be used to relieve short-term symptoms. There are also disease-modifying treatments that have varying effects, such as reducing inflammation in the brain or promoting nerve growth. In addition there are also alternative therapies, such as medical marijuana, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and intentional hookworm infection.
For more information on MS, and ways you can help, visit the National MS Society’s website.