What is Multiple Sclerosis? Types, symptoms, causes and treatment

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects the brain, spinal cord, & the optic nerves in a patient’s eyes. It leads to patients experiencing problems with vision, balance, muscle control, & other basic functions of the human body.

Although it is a generalized definition of Multiple Sclerosis, patients suffering from it will often have different experiences.

Some patients will have milder symptoms, while some others need help doing the basics of everyday tasks & movements.

The latter kind of patients often need treatment & movement therapy to get a hold of their condition, so as to live healthy, unimpeded lives.

Multiple Sclerosis Causes:-

Multiple Sclerosis occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks a fatty material called Myelin, which protects the nerve fibres by wrapping itself around them.

When this outer shell gets destroyed by our own immune system, nerve damage ensues, which leads to the formation of scar tissue around the affected area.

This damage ensures that our brain can’t send signals effectively to the affected area, thus leading to a loss of motor abilities in the region, along with a host of balance & other sensory issues.

However, while this is the most likely biological explanation for Multiple Sclerosis, the exact causes of this condition remain relatively unknown to medical professionals.

But certain genes & conditions make people more likely to experience Multiple Sclerosis than others.

For instance, smokers are known to be at relatively higher risks of developing Multiple Sclerosis over the course of their lives.

In some cases, viral infections like Epstein-Barr Virus, or the Human Herpesvirus, may cause the immune system to weaken & act out in different, dangerous ways that might lead to Multiple Sclerosis in a patient.

Since Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an auto-immune disease, you’re more likely to develop it if you’re suffering from another auto-immune disease like inflammatory bowel disease, thyroid disease, or type 1 diabetes.

Multiple Sclerosis is also more common in certain climates & weather conditions; for instance, people living in cold climates are more likely to be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis than others.

Not getting enough sunshine is also related to getting Multiple Sclerosis & other autoimmune diseases, & thus people living in predominantly cold & cloudy areas are more likely to develop it.

Multiple Sclerosis Types:-

Each patient with Multiple Sclerosis(MS) experiences the illness in different ways. Although nerve damage is an integral, underlying part of the disease, the particular symptoms are specific to every individual.

The difference could also be due to the fact that there are several types of Multiple Sclerosis(MS), each constituting a different part of the human body & sensory adaptors.

Below, we list the different types of Multiple Sclerosis along with their specific symptoms.

  • Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis: This is the most common type of Multiple Sclerosis(MS), & most people diagnosed with the condition have it.
    It is characterized by noticing the first signs & symptoms in our early 20s, then later having periodic relapses & recurrences of it.
    These periods of relapses are accompanied by weeks, months, or even years, of recovery time periods, also called remissions.
    The exact nerves that get affected, the severity of the attacks, the extent of recovery, & the time between relapses all vary from patient to patient.
    Most people with this type of Multiple Sclerosis(MS) move on to the second stage of MS eventually.
  • Secondary Pogressive Multiple Sclerosis: Once people with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis pass a certain threshold of living with the disease, they progress to the second stage of the disease, called Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. In this stage, patients no longer experience periods of relapse & remittance, but have a steady onslaught of Multiple Sclerosis symptoms.
    This usually happens once a patient has lived through 10-20 years of Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.
    This stage is characterized by an overall slowing of the inflammation part of the disease, & a general increase in the rate of slow nerve degeneration in the patient’s body.
    The older a patient is when they first get diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis & the more time lapse between when they seek out treatment, the shorter the progress time between the two stages.
    Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis is usually harder to treat, & makes life more difficult for patients.
  • Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis: In this stage, the disease gets worse with time, & there are no specific intervals of ‘attacks’, neither are there any particular periods of relief or remissions.
    The well-known treatments for Multiple Sclerosis also don’t work with this type of MS, as the patient’s body is too damaged to yield to any treatments.
    It is believed that out of all patients of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), about 10% have this.

Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms:-

For most people, the first Multiple Sclerosis symptoms begin with a condition called Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS). CIS is an episode of neurological symptoms that typically last for about 24 hours.

CIS occurs when your immune system directs your body to destroy Myelin, a protective sheath of fatty acid over the nerve cells in your brain & spine, a term also medically referred to as Demyelination.

It causes scars & lesions on your body, & makes it difficult for signals to travel from your brain to your nerves.

CIS is of two distinct types:

  • Monofocal episode: Where you experience just one symptom, &
  • Multifocal episode: Where you experience more than one symptom.

The most common symptoms of CIS are Optic Neuritis, which is a set of symptoms involving blurry visions, dulling of colours, & pain in the eye, especially during eye movements.

Aside from Optic Neuritis, Numbness & tingling in the legs, face, or arms is also a common symptom of CIS, leading to Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis later on.

The most common Multiple Sclerosis (MS) symptoms are:

  • Bladder & bowel problems; wherein you have trouble emptying your bladder, are frequently constipated or have reduced bladder capacity & need to go pee frequently.
  • Clumsiness in gait & trouble walking; which is usually characterized by changes in walking style, & problems with balancing your body while walking.
  • Dizziness, & in some cases, types of Vertigo, wherein you may feel that the room is spinning.
  • A low turn in mood & feelings of depression brought on by the sensory changes in the nerves & the realization of suffering from a chronic disease.
  • Nystagmus; involuntary eye movements, & double vision.
  • Fatigue; wherein you feel tired even after getting proper rest, & lack the energy to perform basic everyday tasks.
  • Heart problems, feeling cold shivers down your body.
  • Muscle spasms & stiffness
  • Vaginal dryness in women & erection problems in men.
  • Slurred speech & unusual speech patterns
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking in a straight direction
  • Tremors & unusual sensations in the whole body

Multiple Sclerosis Treatment:-

Although there is no decided cure for Multiple Sclerosis, certain medications & lifestyle changes can help you better manage your condition.

Depending on your particular condition & diagnosis, your doctor might prescribe one or multiple of the below treatment options.

  • Disease modifying drugs: These drugs work by slowing the advancement of Multiple Sclerosis & reducing flare-ups or relapses of the condition.
    These drugs basically act by curbing the immune system, so that it doesn’t attack & destroy Myelin, the protective covering over nerves in your spine & brain.
    They usually come in pills or injections, & you might develop certain reactions to them.
    Examples of Disease modifying drugs include beta interferons like Avonex, Rebif, Extavia etc. & other medications like Copaxone, Glatopa, Mavenclad, Tecfidera, etc.
  • Steroids: If your condition is flaring up quickly, your doctor might prescribe steroids to you, just so that the progress of the disease slows down.
    Steroids like Methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol), & Prednisone (Deltasone) may help with reducing flare-up of symptoms & slow down the nerve degeneration in patients.
  • Plasma Exchange: If your body doesn’t respond to steroids, then your doctor might take the help of Plasma Exchange. In this, some of your blood cells are mixed with a protein solution & put back in your body to help stabilize your condition & reduce flare-ups.

Besides these, your doctor might also prescribe certain medication to treat the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) symptoms you’re exhibiting. These include Muscle Relaxants to reduce stiffness & spasms, Antidepressants to help with fatigue & depression, & medications to help with your bladder issues.

Dizziness Treatment & Vertigo treatment may also be a part of your treatment plans, as these side effects can prove to be a major hurdle for some Multiple Sclerosis patients.

Aside from medications, your doctor might also recommend physical therapy to help with nerve sensations, regaining balance, & to regenerate motor abilities lost due to the disease.

Certain Yoga postures, exercises, & walking, etc. might help with slowly getting your balance & posture back on track, once you’re on the road to recovery from Multiple Sclerosis.

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