Multiple sclerosis (MS) can be a difficult and unpredictable disease to live with. But what is it exactly?
MS appears to be an autoimmune disease that attacks the sheath (myelin) that surrounds the nerve bundle of the Central Nervous System, causing a wide range of unpredictable symptoms that occur and disappear at any time and vary from person to person. Due to the damage and deterioration of the sheath, faulty signals are sent between the brain, spinal cord and eyes.
This condition can happen to anyone but seems to affect more woman than men and those with a family history of MS. It also occurs in those between the ages of 18 and 55. Accurate diagnosis are done with lab testing and imaging.
For many, the first noticeable sign of MS is vision problems, such as blurred vision, poor colour, painful eye movement, blindness in one eye and dark spots in the field of vision. Although the symptoms are scary, most correct on their own or are highly treatable.
One of the earliest common symptoms of the condition is numbness of the face, body, arms or legs. Which can be mild or severe enough to affect daily activity. However, most periods of numbness resolve without medication and is not permanent.
About 80 per cent of people with MS experience fatigue or unexplained exhaustion. These symptoms are aggravated by bladder dysfunction and waking up to use the bathroom often. Others have night-time spasms causing sleep disturbance.
MS can also cause bowel problems due to nerve damage in the spinal cord, causing constipation or diarrhoea or loss of bowel control.
About 55 per cent of people with MS experience significant pain, while 48 per cent live with chronic pain. This seems to be due to the damaged nerves that help transmit sensation to the Central Nervous System.
More than 50 per cent have cognitive problems such as, learning, memory, perception and problem solving. These are typically mild to moderate and only affect a few cognitive abilities at a time.
Clinical depression is also one of the most common symptoms and is aggravated by the sudden changes in the body and the wide range of unpredictable symptoms of MS.
Muscle weakness, stiffness and spasms are also symptoms, due to the damage of the nerve fibres that help control the muscles. Exercise and physical therapy can aid these symptoms.
Although MS is incurable it is highly treatable. Aggressive medical intervention in the early stages can lower the rate of relapse, slows down scarring of the sheath around nerve bundles and reduces the risk of brain deterioration and disability.
MS is a difficult and unpredictable condition but can be managed with proper treatment and care, helping those with the disease to live full productive lives.