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Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis: Introduction

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive autoimmune disease and the most common neurological disease diagnosed in young adults. Multiple sclerosis commonly called MS, attacks the central nervous system and can cause significant nerve damage. The progression and severity of the disease varies greatly between individuals and it can result in a wide variety of effects, from mild to severe and disabling. These include muscle weakness, loss of balance, inability to walk, and paralysis.

The causes of multiple sclerosis are not well understood. Researchers believe that the body's immune system begins to attack its own nervous system, specifically the myelin, a fatty material that covers and insulates the nerve cells in the central nervous system. Healthy myelin is vital to the normal, rapid movement of electrical impulses through the nerve pathways.

In multiple sclerosis, patches of myelin in the brain and spinal cord become inflamed, swell, and develop lesions. Myelin and nerve cells become damaged, which wreck havoc with the normal transmission of electrical impulses.

It is believed that this process may be triggered by a combination of genetic factors and environmental elements, such as exposure to a virus or some infections.

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis can vary greatly between individuals. In the early stages of the disease, symptoms come and go, and people with multiple sclerosis can experience periods of remission, in which symptoms disappear and periods of relapse, in which symptoms reappear. Symptoms may worsen during relapses and complications can include seizures, changes in mentation, muscle spasms, and depression.

Symptoms generally first appear between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Most often, the first symptom is visual changes. Other symptoms may include dizziness, muscle weakness, incoordination, balance problems, fatigue, trembling, abnormal sensations in the extremities, and cognitive impairment, and paralysis. For more information on symptoms, refer to symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Testing for multiple sclerosis is an involved process because there is no single test that will specifically diagnose the condition. In addition, a definitive diagnosis of multiple sclerosis may often be delayed because early symptoms are often mild, vague, disappear for periods of time, and/or may mimic other conditions. Multiple tests are needed to rule out other conditions that can be confused with multiple sclerosis or that have similar symptoms affecting the nervous system. These include some viral infections, lupus, lime disease, and vitamin deficiencies. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is generally made by a neurologist and is made based on the compilation of a thorough neurological history and physical, blood tests, a lumbar puncture, and an MRI, which may show the brain and spinal cord damage and lesions characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, but the disease can be managed and symptoms controlled to various degrees of success with a variety of medications, such as interferons, copolymer, novantrone, natalizumab, corticosteroids, and muscle relaxers. Other therapies include physical therapy, avoiding heat, regular exercise, eating a healthy well-balanced diet and maintaining an optimal weight. Equipment, such as walkers, canes, and braces may also be needed to help maintain independence. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of multiple sclerosis. ...more »

Multiple Sclerosis: Multiple sclerosis is a nerve or spinal cord disease that causes random damage to parts of the nervous system. The result is a diverse range of possible symptoms depending on which parts of the cord are damaged, and how often the inflammation reoccurs. Typical symptoms are any kind of tingling, numbness, burning sensations, "pins-and-needles" or other types of sensory changes in various parts of the body; also possible are vision changes (see a full list of symptoms).

Prognosis of multiple sclerosis is highly variable. Some people have very minor problems, whereas others can end up in a wheelchair, lose vision, or other nasty complications. It just depends which part of the spinal cord or nervous system is attacked. Some people have what is called a "single sclerosis" where there is only one incident of a sclerosis (lesion) on the spinal cord, and this may or may not progress to "multiple" sclerosis.

The cause of multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system is somehow triggered to mount an attack against its own good cells - in this case the cells that surround nerves. ...more »

Multiple Sclerosis: Animations

Multiple Sclerosis: Broader Related Topics

 

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