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What All You Should Know About Multiple Sclerosis?

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What All You Should Know About Multiple Sclerosis?

Neurosciences | Posted on 05/11/2020 by Dr. Anjani Kumar Sharma



Introduction

Have you been experiencing weakness in muscles, tingling, vertigo, fatigue, or numbness? If yes, then these symptoms indicate that you are suffering from multiple sclerosis. It is a condition that affects the never fibers in the central nervous system. It can cause vision issues, weakness in the muscles, balance loss, or numbness over time. Various drug therapies can restrict nerve damage and slow down the development of this disease. In this condition, the immune system wrongly attacks healthy cells that are myelin. Myelin is a safe sheath surrounding nerves in the spinal cord and brain. Harm to this sheath interferes with nerve signals from the brain to other body parts. It causes damage to the spinal cord, eyes, and the brain. 

If you suspect that you might have multiple sclerosis, then you must ensure gaining as much as information you can so that considering treatment on time becomes easier for you. In this blog, we will involve the discussion on this topic such as its symptoms, causes, and treatment. However, please note that it is for informational purposes and doesn’t interrupt the consultation of a doctor. You can book your appointment with Rukmani Birla Hospital, one of the best multispeciality hospitals in Jaipur delivering the best care to its patients. 

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, auto-immune disease that impacts the central nervous system of the body, particularly the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves in the eyes – producing a wide array of symptoms in the body. Symptoms and effects of the disease vary from person to person, making it hard to predict the progression of the disease in the body.

In multiple sclerosis, the immune system of the body starts attacking the healthy tissue – the myelin sheath – that surrounds and protects the fibers of the nerves and helps them conduct electric signals efficiently. When the sheath is mostly damaged or disappears, it causes inflammation and scars known as plaques or lesions that mainly affect the brain stem, cerebellum (movement and balance coordinator), spinal cord, optic nerves, and the white brain matter. 

As the severity of the problem increase, more lesions develop creating higher chances of permanent nerve damage. This causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of the organs, causing severe symptoms as well as loss of certain body functions.

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis; however, timely identification can help ensure speedy recovery, modifying the course of the disease, reducing the intensity, and managing symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?

Since multiple sclerosis affects the central nervous system of the body that controls all body functioning; hence, the symptoms can be seen on any body part. In each case, symptoms will vary depending on the part of the body affected by multiple sclerosis. Some of the common symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Extreme weakness in muscles
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Shock similar to that of an electric shock while moving neck (also called Lhermitte’s sign)
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tremors
  • Vision problems (partial or full loss, prolonged double vision, or blurry vision)
  • Mobility problems
  • Anxiety
  • Memory problem
  • Acute pain
  • Slurred speech

A few other symptoms that might be rare but do exist:

  • Intense headache
  • Hearing impairment
  • Excessive itching
  • Breathing problem
  • Seizures
  • Speech problems
  • Issue in swallowing
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Loss of mobility

Symptoms affect the general quality of life, as well as worsen to also impact the perception, thinking, and sensitivity to heat among affected people. However, each affected individual has a different experience. Some cases see subtle symptoms then no progression for a long period.

What are the complications of multiple sclerosis?

While some experience continuously worsening symptoms causing some complications; others might experience severe symptoms that tend to get better after a point of time. Here are some of the complications:

You must see a doctor when you experience any of the above complications due to unexplained reasons. Multiple sclerosis is often categorized by a relapse and remit disease duration which implies that there will be a period of new symptoms or relapse of symptoms over time despite being improved partially or completely. Oftentimes, these periods are followed by remission intervals that last for months or even years in some cases.

What are the causes and Risk factors of Multiple Sclerosis?

The exact cause of multiple sclerosis is not clear, it is an auto-immune disease that attacks the healthy tissue of the body destroying the fatty layer that coats and shields the nerve fibers of the brain and spinal cord. This makes the nerves more prone to damage causing problems. Though, the actual reason why multiple sclerosis affects some people and not others is vague. That said, some factors that increase the risk of the problem are:

  • Age: People between 20-40 years of age have more chances of multiple sclerosis.
  • Sex: Women are more likely to be affected by the problem than men.
  • Genetics: The problem may be passed on through genes; however it does need an environmental trigger.
  • Smoking: Smokers are at very high risk of contracting the problem and developing intense symptoms such as seizures and brain shrinkage.
  • Infections: Exposure to certain viruses such as Herpes type 6, pneumonia, mononucleosis, etc. increases the chances of multiple sclerosis.
  • Deficiency of Vitamins: Essential vitamins such as Vitamin D and B12 are required for the body’s immune system. A deficiency of these two vitamins can cause a weakened immune system and a lack of production of myelin – a compound necessary for proper neurological functioning.
  • Race: Asians, Africans, and Native Americans have lower chances of contracting the problem.
  • Climate: Countries with a temperate climate such as Canada, New Zealand, etc. record more cases of the problem.
  • Auto-immune Disease: Auto-immune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, thyroid, or inflammatory bowel disease – are more likely to be impacted by multiple sclerosis.
  • Smoking: Smokers tend to have a weak immune system over time and if multiple sclerosis symptoms affect a smoker, there are more chances of complications than in non-smokers.

How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?

Multiple sclerosis could be triggered due to one or a combination of risk factors. It can be diagnosed through a physical and neurological exam in addition to the analysis of symptoms. Further, brain and spinal cord MRIs, analysis of spinal fluid, or an evoked potential test can be used to confirm multiple sclerosis. Since, there is no defined treatment, only awareness, and timely diagnosis can help reduce the intensity of multiple sclerosis.

What are the options for multiple sclerosis treatment?

At present, there is no cure available for multiple sclerosis treatment. The treatment options available primarily emphasize symptom management, decreased, relapses, and slowing the growth of this condition. The comprehensive treatment plan for multiple sclerosis is: 

  • Disease-modifying therapies are there approved by FDA for the treatment of multiple sclerosis in the long run. This treatment option helps reduce replases also referred to as attacks. The drugs assist in slowing down the growth of the condition and preventing new lesions from producing in the brain and spinal cord. 
  • Relapse management medications are for people who experience severe attacks. The doctor might prescribe using corticosteroids. This medication helps in reducing inflammation and reducing harm to the myelin sheath surrounding the nerve cells. 
  • Physical rehabilitation is another treatment option for multiple sclerosis as it can lead to affecting physical function. It is recommended to stay physically active and strong as it will help with mobility. 
  • Mental health counseling is often recommended in this condition as it can be emotionally tiring. Multiple sclerosis can cause different mood changes and memory. So, getting in touch with a neurologist is helpful as they can offer emotional support.

Conclusion

Multiple sclerosis is a hazardous condition as it affects the central nervous system and can be emotionally challenging for any individual. It becomes too difficult to be mindful of the symptoms like inflammation, loss of balance, vision issues, muscle weakness, etc. There can be various neurological symptoms and this is why it is important to be aware of them so that timely treatment can be considered. There is no cure available for multiple sclerosis treatment. However, if you are diagnosed with this condition, it is recommended to get in touch with your doctor so that they can instruct you on the management of symptoms and can offer options that are suitable for your condition.

FAQs

Can multiple sclerosis be cured?

No, at present, there is no cure available for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Is multiple sclerosis fatal?

Yes, multiple sclerosis is a fatal and life-threatening condition. 

Is multiple sclerosis genetic?

No, multiple sclerosis is not genetic directly, but people who are in relation suffering from this condition are more likely to develop this condition.