Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms can range from mild, such as numbness and tingling, to severe, including paralysis or loss of vision.
In MS, the body’s immune system attacks myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system. The nerve fiber can also be damaged. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis). This scarring can occur in a number of locations throughout the body, hence the name of the disease, multiple sclerosis. This damage causes nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord to be altered or stopped.
The cause of MS is still unknown. It’s considered an auto-immune disease, in which the body attacks its own tissue. Scientists believe that a combination of environmental and genetic factors contribute to the risk of developing MS.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease.
There is no cure for MS. Treatment typically focuses on speeding recovery from attacks, slowing the progression of the disease and managing symptoms, for life. Some people have such mild symptoms that no treatment is necessary.
Medications are available to help modify the progression of the disease. For acute attacks, your physician may recommend corticosteroids or a plasma exchange. To help slow the progression of the disease, some infusions, injectables and oral medications have been effective. Recommendations may be based on safety, convenience and efficacy of the medications.
Many of these therapies carry significant health risks. It’s always best to discuss with your doctor the best treatment options for you.
To make an appointment with an MS specialist, call 330.319.9495.