Written By Michele Wheat
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the central nervous system and can range from somewhat benign to completely devastating as the disease causes communication disruptions between the brain and other parts of the body. MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease by most, meaning that through the immune system, the body starts to attack its own tissues. With multiple sclerosis, it is myelin, which insulates nerves, that comes under attack.
The majority of people who are diagnosed with MS start to experience symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40. Initial symptoms of the disease can include double or blurred vision, color distortion, and blindness in one eye. Most people with multiple sclerosis also experience difficulty with balance and coordination and muscle weakness. These symptoms can range in severity, and can cause issues with walking and standing. In severe cases, MS can cause partial or complete paralysis. Many people with MS also report sensations such as numbness or prickling, dizziness, tremors, and speech impediments. It has been determined that nearly half of people suffering from MS experience certain cognitive impairments including trouble with memory, concentration, and attention.
Multiple Sclerosis Treatment
There is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis and many patients who do not suffer from severe symptoms do well without therapy at all. Medications used to treat MS can have serious side effects and risks. The FDA has however approved different forms of beta interferon that have been shown to possibly slow the progression of disabilities associated with MS as well as reduce the number of exacerbations. Several other medications have also been approved by the FDA for use in the treatment of MS. Commonly used medications include muscle relaxers and steroids to help with muscle spasms in addition to various forms of physical therapy. A common feature of patients with MS is depression, so various medications to deal with such issues are often prescribed as well.
Diagnosis of MS for some patients occurs shortly after the onset of the disease and symptoms but in others, it can be more difficult for doctors to identify the cause of any symptoms, leading to varying periods of uncertainty. In many cases, patients are only mildly affected by MS but in more severe cases, it can render a person unable to speak, write, or even walk.
Multiple Sclerosis Research and Awareness
There is much research being done into not only the causes of multiple sclerosis, but also on medications and therapies that may help to better treat patients. There are several promising areas of research in MS such as studies of naturally occurring antiviral proteins called interferons. There are also studies being done on different therapies that may help to improve patient function and curtail attacks. In addition to scientists and doctors, there are others such as patients and family members that are engaged in addressing all of the challenges that a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis brings. Organizations such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society have launched campaigns such as MS Awareness week to help educate the public on MS. As more awareness is brought to multiple sclerosis, there is hope that a cause of the disease can be found and lead to a cure.
Additional Multiple Sclerosis Information