Multiple Sclerosis, also known as MS, is a disease causing demylination of the white matter in the spinal cord and brain. The nerve damage slows, blocks or distorts transmission of nerve impulses. MS is characterized by periods of exacerbation and remissions.
The crippling disease is a major cause of chronic disability in young adults. It usually becomes symptomatic between the ages of twenty and forty with twenty-seven being the average. Prognosis varies greatly from person to person. MS can progress rapidly causing profound disability and even death by early adulthood. Alternatively, early symptoms can be mild appearing as another ailment and, therefore, years may elapse between onset and diagnosis. Flares can be bizarre and difficult for the patient to describe. Flares can be transient or last for hours, even weeks. They can easily come and go showing no particular pattern or trigger.
Diagnosis requires evidence of two or more neurologic attacks.
With treatment, about 70% of patients lead active, productive lives with prolonged remissions.
The exact cause of MS is still unknown. There is speculation of it being an autoimmune response to a slow acting or latent viral infection. There is also reason to consider environmental or even genetic factors. Multiple Sclerosis follows a pattern of destruction slightly similar in nature, although much more devastating, to Fibromyalgia, Rhuematoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. Early symptoms can be mild appearing as other ailments and, therefore, years may elapse between onset and diagnosis.
In MS, axon demylination and nerve fiber loss occurs in patches throughout the central nervous system. This causes a wide spread and chronic dysfunction involving impulse transmission. For example, symptoms range from sensory-perceptual deficits to fatigue weakness, tremors, ataxia, dysphagia, slurred speech, incontinence and involuntary evacuation of the bowels. These are only a partial list of possibilities.
Treatment is threefold: treat the acute exacerbation; treat the disease process; and lastly treat the related signs and symptoms. There is an abundance of drugs used in the treatment. But there are also various therapies involved as well as alternative and holistic treatments available and increasing in popularity. Bowel and bladder management is of great importance as the disease progresses. There are also studies indicating that high fat diets may aid in remyalination of nerve axons. Adjunctive therapies include massage, aromatherapy, and even acupuncture. Unfortunately there continues to be only symptomatic treatment and no cure.