A Visual Guide to Multiple Sclerosis

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Multiple Sclerosis or MS is a chronic disease that damages the nerves in the spinal cord and brain, as well as the optic nerves. Sclerosis means scarring, and people with MS develop multiple areas of scar tissue in response to the nerve damage. Depending on where the damage occurs, symptoms may include problems with muscle control, balance, vision, or speech. Symptoms of MS include Weakness in an arm or leg numbness, loss of balance and muscle spasms. These symptoms may lead to frequent tripping or difficulty in walking. More than half of people with MS experience a vision problem called optic neuritis. This inflammation of the optic nerve may cause blurred vision, loss of color vision, eye pain, or blindness, usually in one eye. The problem is usually temporary and tends to improve within a few weeks. In many cases, vision problems are the first sign of MS. Although less common than vision problems, some people with MS develop slurred speech. This happens when MS damages the nerves that carry speech signals from the brain. Some people also have trouble swallowing.

MS can take a toll on mental sharpness. Some people may find it takes longer to solve problems. Others may have mild memory loss or trouble concentrating. Most people with MS also experience some loss of bladder control, because signals between the brain and bladder are interrupted. Finally, fatigue is a common problem. You may feel tired even after a good night’s sleep. In people with MS, the body’s own immune system 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 helps them send electrical signals that control movement, speech, and other functions. When myelin is destroyed, scar tissue forms, and nerve messages are not transmitted properly.

What Causes MS? The roots of MS remain a mystery but doctors see some surprising trends. Research suggests a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune disorders, but studies are ongoing. Genetics appear to play a role, as well.

Who Gets MS? According to research MS is at least twice as common in women as it is in men. While it can strike people of any race, Caucasians appear to be most at risk. The chances of developing the condition are highest between ages 20 and 50. Tests are often used, along with a medical history and neurological exam, to diagnose MS and rule out other causes of symptoms. More than 90% of people with MS have scar tissue that shows up on an MRI scan. A spinal tap can check for abnormalities in the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord. Tests to look at electrical activity of nerves can also help with diagnosis. Lab tests can help rule out other autoimmune conditions or infections such as HIV or Lyme disease. Research suggests that the disease may be more active during the summer months. Heat and high humidity may also temporarily worsen symptoms. Very cold temperatures and sudden changes in temperature may aggravate symptoms, as well.

While there is no cure for MS, there are “disease-modifying drugs” that can reduce the frequency and severity of MS attacks which  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. Many drugs are also available to manage troubling MS symptoms, such as muscle spasms, incontinence, and pain. Making a few changes around the home can help you manage daily activities on your own. 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. And get rid of any throw rugs, which are a tripping hazard.

Exercise can ease stiffness, fatigue, and other symptoms of MS. But overdoing it could make things worse. It’s best to start slowly. Try exercising for 10 minutes at a time, then gradually working your way up to a longer session. Before you begin, check with your doctor about what type of activity and level of intensity would be most appropriate. A few possibilities include water aerobics, swimming, tai chi, and yoga

Most people with MS live a normal or near-normal lifespan. While the condition may make it more difficult to get around or complete certain tasks, it doesn’t always lead to severe disability. Thanks to effective medications, rehab therapies, and assistive devices, many people with MS remain active, stay in their jobs, and continue to enjoy their families and favorite activities.

Source: Healthy Living
Pulseng

 

By Pupwaya Timothy Dibal

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