Multiple Sclerosis Overview, Symptoms, and Treatments

Our central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. They process information from our environment and control voluntary muscle movements to allow the body to do certain things. 

Multiple sclerosis (MS) can be thought of as an inflammatory process involving different areas of the central nervous system (CNS) at various points in time. As the name suggests, multiple sclerosis affects many areas of the CNS.

Researchers say that MS is more common in individuals of northern European descent and are more than twice as likely to develop multiple sclerosis as men. The age mostly experiences the MS is between 20 and 50 years, and the average age of onset is approximately 34 years.

Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

  • The first symptoms of multiple sclerosis are often visual changes.
    • Large number of people with multiple sclerosis develop optic neuritis(inflammation of the optic nerve, which is an extension of the central nervous system), described as a painful vision loss. If a patient is diagnosed with optic neuritis early, treatment could change the course of the disease.
    • Before the actual loss of vision, the patient may have visual changes described by many people as blurred or hazy vision, flashing lights, or alterations in color.
    • The tissues around the eye and moving the eye may be painful.
    • Most people recover over several months. Others are left with permanent visual defects.
    • Double vision occurs when the eyes move in different directions and is another common symptom of multiple sclerosis.
  • Multiple sclerosis commonly affects the cerebellum, the portion of the brain responsible for balance and fine motor coordination. Consequently, people with multiple sclerosis often have difficulty maintaining their balance when walking and performing delicate tasks with their hands. Unexplained dropping of a cup or other object or unusual weakness can occur.
  • Patients may experience facial pain, a sensation of spinning referred to as vertigo, and sometimes hearing loss.
  • Virtually any area of the body can be involved, making this disease the great imitator of other disorders of the nervous system.
    • The patient may experience painful muscle spasms or loss of strength in one or more of the arms or legs.
    • The nerve fibers that conduct touch, pain, and temperature sensations are often affected, causing tingling, numbness or electrical-type pain sensations in the chest, abdomen, arms or legs.
  • Multiple sclerosis can involve the nerves responsible for involuntary actions of the bladder and intestines.
    • The patient may often have constipation and urinary retention.
    • These symptoms lead to other complications, such as infections of the bladder, kidney, or blood.
  • Most people with multiple sclerosis complain of a constant state of tiredness. Something as simple as carrying groceries up a flight of stairs may become an impossible task for someone with multiple sclerosis.
  • A peculiar trait of multiple sclerosis is the relationship between higher temperatures and the worsening of symptoms.
    • People often complain of worsening of any of their symptoms after taking a hot shower, or participating in strenuous exercise.
    • The exact reason this occurs is unknown. Perhaps it is because at higher temperatures nerve conduction decreases, which could lead to further slowing in the transmission of messages in nerves that have already lost myelin.

Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

MS is a genetically and immunologically complex disease. It is currently incurable, but environmental factors, such as vitamin D3, may hold the key to preventing MS and reducing the impact of the disease in MS patients. The disease can be taken care at home in combination of medications. New research and treatment methods are currently being investigated and are expected to offer some hope to people with multiple sclerosis.

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.

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