What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune disorder means the condition within the body itself where the body’s own immune system attacks the diseases fighting ability of an individual. Multiple Sclerosis attacks the brain and the spinal cord. The nerves of the brain and the spinal cord are damaged by their own immune system, hence it is called autoimmune disorder. This damage to the two most important parts of the nervous system results in loss of vision and sensation.

What happens in Multiple Sclerosis?

The most important function of the nervous system is to give messages to the body and control the reflexes and responses of the body. The nerves of the brain and the spinal cord pass on these messages from the brain to other parts of the body. Each nerve is covered by a fatty substance called myelin which acts as a protective insulating sheath of the neurons. Multiple Sclerosis occurs when this insulation is destroyed by a process called demyelination and the communication between brain and body is disrupted.

This breakdown in communication often results in the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.

What are the causes of Multiple Sclerosis?

The causes of Multiple Sclerosis are predominantly genes, environment and virus.

  • Genes: Research has shown that genetic disposition is the major reason for developing Multiple Sclerosis. If Multiple Sclerosis runs in the family then more instances of Multiple Sclerosis are likely
  • Environment: Studies have shown that people staying in certain countries like Scotland, Europe, Denmark or places which are away from the Equator and have less of sunshine are more likely to develop the condition of Multiple Sclerosis
  • Virus as a cause of Multiple Sclerosis has not been proved substantially
  • Other factors include the sex hormones like estrogens and progesterone in females and testosterone in males is responsible for affecting changes in immune system

Usually the genes factor coupled with the environment factor can trigger an autoimmune response resulting in Multiple Sclerosis.

What are the signs and symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?

Different people show different symptoms. The common signs and symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis are:

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Loss of balance
  • Difficulty in thinking
  • Clumsiness
  • Speech problems
  • Bladder difficulties
  • Weakness or tingling or numbness
  • Sexual difficulties

Multiple Sclerosis symptoms set in early childhood and are felt in adolescence period.

How is Multiple Sclerosis diagnosed?

The following steps help in diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis:

  • Medical history and family history and record of places travelled to.
  • Test to evaluate mental, physical and emotional reflexes, movement, balance, vision and MRIs.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid tests and visual evoked potential tests are more decisive in Multiple Sclerosis. A Neurologist is the expert who is to be consulted in this condition.
Can Multiple Sclerosis be cured?

There is still no known cure for Multiple Sclerosis, but it can be treated by therapies. As this condition is followed by attacks and flare ups due to inflammation; treatment can help manage the symptoms and improve functions and safety.

Combination of rehabilitation, lifestyle changes and speech and occupational therapy, stress management, relaxation therapies like meditation help in managing the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis effectively. Exercises and Diets in consultation with the doctor can help you manage effectively and improve the quality of life.

How does one cope with this condition?

The symptoms generally ease out by themselves sometimes or may reduce in their frequency with age. Effective management and lifestyle changes can reduce the severity of symptoms and help in coping with the condition of Multiple Sclerosis.

An example is of Ann Romney, wife of US presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Ann Romney was open enough to accept the condition of Multiple Sclerosis and shared her experience with the world. Since this condition leads to trouble in walking and loss of balance, Ann took to horse riding as a therapy.

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