Multiple Sclerosis


Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord). The insulation of axons, called myelin, surrounding the nerves is damaged or destroyed in people with MS. When the myelin is affected, impulses travel over the axon very slowly, if at all, and there is some electrical interference between axons. Messages are not sent efficiently and can be altered, or fail to get through. When this occurs, messages from the brain are lost or interrupted causing the various MS symptoms people experience. MS is considered a devastating disease because of its unpredictability. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of the disease cannot be foreseen. You never know when attacks will occur, how long they will last or how severe they will be.


The disease produces small lesions in different places in the central nervous system white matter, and it is said to be multiple in space. It also causes symptoms over time that seem to be discreet episodes which are the attacks of the disease. Between attacks, a person with Multiple Sclerosis may improve and even get completely better which are attacks and remissions a person may go through. Causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments are all key factors to understanding Multiple Sclerosis (MSAA 2000).


There are several theories to as to the cause of Multiple Sclerosis because the specific cause to MS is not fully understood. It is usually classified as an autoimmune disease because it is widely accepted that it results from an abnormal immune system response. This response may be triggered by genetic, environmental, and viral factors that may initiate demyelization.


Doctors have found that genetic factors play a vital role in the cause of Multiple Sclerosis. No single gene, however, is likely to be responsible for causing MS. The most popular current theory is that the disease occurs in people with a genetic susceptibility who are exposed to some environmental assault such as a virus or a toxin that disrupts the blood-brain barrier. Immune factors converge in the nerve cells and trigger inflammation and an autoimmune attack on myelin and axons


There is also an environmental theory to the cause of Multiple Sclerosis. The environmental theory proposes that an environmental factor triggers the symptoms of MS. Support for this theory includes the observation that multiple sclerosis is diagnosed more frequently in temperate than tropical or subtropical climates. Investigators have explored the possibility that exposure to viral or bacterial infections, environmental toxins, duration of sunlight, changes in temperature and humidity, or diet might in some way produce or aggravate MS. To date, no specific environmental factor has been proven to cause MS. Despite these theories, some experts believe that MS may prove to be not a single disorder, but may represent several diseases with different causes. Multiple Sclerosis is a complex subject that is poorly understood so there really is no one reason of cause and doctors must look at an individuals symptoms to try to assess these causes.


Symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from person to person and from time to time in the same person. For example, one person may experience abnormal fatigue, while another might have severe vision problems. A person with MS could have loss of balance and muscle coordination making walking difficult; another person with MS could have slurred speech, tremors, stiffness, and bladder problems. While some symptoms will come and go over the course of the disease, others may be more lasting.


The most common early symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis include tingling, numbness, loss of balance, weakness in limbs, and blurred vision. Less common early symptoms include slurred speech, sudden onset of paralysis, and lack of coordination. As uncommon as there symptoms are, the likeliness of a person developing these symptoms depends on the individuals body, and his or her ability to have an immune defense to the problem (MSAA 2000).


As the disease progresses, the symptoms tend to worsen. The most common symptom as progression occurs is fatigue, which consists of muscle weakness, mental fatigue, sleepiness, or drowsiness. Some other symptoms as the disease progresses include heat sensitivity, spasticity, dizziness, abnormal sensations, and tremors.


The symptoms are classified into three types: Primary symptoms, secondary symptoms, and tertiary symptoms. Primary symptoms are