If you have questions about multiple sclerosis, read below. Answers to questions about multiple sclerosis include what the disease is, the causes, the common symptoms, who is typically affected, how a diagnosis is determined, and the treatment options.
What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder that affects central nervous system. With this disease, the body's own immune system attacks the nervous system and causes inflammation and subsequent damage to the protective covering of nerve cells, called the myelin sheath. This is why sometimes multiple sclerosis is referred to as a demyelinating disease.
What are the causes?
The exact cause of multiple sclerosis remains a mystery. However, the most common theories by researchers are a virus, genetic defect, or combination. In addition, the prevalence in certain areas indicates that the environment may play a role.
What are the common symptoms?
Symptoms can vary because the disease can affect any part of the brain and spinal cord. Therefore, MS patients can experience problems affecting the muscles, the bowel or bladder, vision, thought process, sexual organs, speech and/or swallowing. Most of these symptoms or attacks can range from difficulty functioning to uncontrolled or loss of function.
Who is affected by MS?
This disease typically affects more women than men and common diagnosis occurs between the ages of 20 and 40. However, MS has been diagnosed at various ages.
How is diagnosis determined?
Neurological exams and vision tests may help to determine nerve function damage or certain issues. However, an MS diagnosis is not usually given without an MRI, lumbar puncture (spinal tap), and/or nerve function tests.
What is the treatment?
Thankfully, much progress has been made with MS. Although there is no cure, medications can be used to achieve close-to-normal or even normal life expectancy. Women and/or people with fewer lesions (visible on MRI), with a relapsing-remitting MS diagnosis (a couple attacks followed by a period of no symptoms), and/or who experience infrequent attacks have the best prognosis.
If you are having any balance issues, uncontrolled muscle spasms, partial blindness, or any other symptoms associated with MS, call your healthcare provider. If MS is suspected, it could be to your benefit to schedule an appointment with a facility that is familiar with the disease and has a dedicated MS Center.