Multiple Sclerosis(MS) has been a prevalent healthcare condition for many years, with approximately 2.5 million cases worldwide, as of March 2020. As we arrive at the World Multiple Sclerosis Day on the 30th of May 2020, let us take a sneak peek into what MS is.
What is Multiple Sclerosis(MS): An Overview
Multiple Sclerosis is a potential disorder that occurs in the central nervous system, i.e., the brain and the spinal cord.
How does it occur?
Multiple Sclerosis occurs when the immune system of the body attacks the myelin, a protective sheath that covers the nerve fibers. This, in turn, disrupts the communication system between the brain and the rest of the body. MS can also cause permanent damage to the nerves in the long run.
Causes: Multiple Sclerosis is predominantly observed in individuals between the age of 20-50 years, and is likely to occur twice in women than in men. MS may or may not be genetic, as sometimes it also occurs due to environmental triggers. The prime causes of MS are
- Smoking: resulting in more lesions and brain shrinkage
- Infections such as Epstein-Bara Virus (EBV), also known as mononucleosis
- Vitamin D Deficiency: mostly due to low sunlight exposure
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Increases risks of neurological disorders.
- Autoimmune diseases: Elevated risks of MS if you have thyroid problems, Type 1 Diabetes, or Inflammatory Bowel’s Disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
The deterioration caused to your body occurs when your nerves aren’t able to send correct signals through the entire body. This results in the display of various signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis, like:
1. Tingling and Numbness: One of the earliest symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis is a tingling sensation and subsequent numbness in various parts such as the face, body, arms, and legs.
2. Fatigue: The average working capacity of a person, either at work or at home, reduces due to continued fatigue.
3. Lhermitte Sign: With certain neck movements, such as bending the neck forward, results in sudden electric shock sensations rilling throughout the body.
4. Unsteady Gait: Multiple Sclerosis also changes the pattern of walking in individuals, due to issues with balance and muscle weakness, and also, dizziness.
5. Sexual Dysfunction: Sexual desires in both men and women diminish greatly, and they may completely lose interest in sex.
6. Tremor: Involuntary Quivering is observed when suffering from MS.
7. Difficulty in Bladder or Bowel Control: Also one of the earliest signs of Multiple Sclerosis is, one might have incontinence problems(urinating frequently, or not being able to control the bladder).
8. Vision Problem: Primary issues with vision might include double vision, blurry vision, red-green color distortion, or partial or complete loss of vision, one eye at a time. Sometimes, constant pain is accompanied at the time of eye movement due to the inflammation of the optic nerve.
Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis and Treatment
Multiple Sclerosis cannot be diagnosed by a single test, and hence physicians take the aid from several tests.
- MRI: Diagnosing MS with MRI is done to reveal lesions(due to MS) on the brain and spinal cord.
- Spinal Fluid Analysis: A small portion of the spinal fluid is extracted from the spinal canal for analysis. If there are any abnormalities in the antibodies associated with MS, it can be detected.
- Evoked Potential Tests: These types of tests record electrical signals that are produced by the nervous system in response to visual/electrical stimuli.
Since there is no cure for Multiple Sclerosis, treatment procedures are carried out so as to help in speedy recovery from attacks, slower the MS progression, and management of signs and symptoms.
a. To Slower the MS Progression
For primary-progressive Multiple Sclerosis, an FDA-approved Disease Management Therapy(DMT) medication called Ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) is used. Whereas, for relapsing-remitting MS, injectable medications such as Beta-Inferons(reduces the frequency and severity of relapses), and Glatiramer acetate (helps prevent the immune system’s attack on the myelin sheath) are used.
b. For MS Attacks
Corticosteroids such as oral prednisone and intravenous methylprednisolone are prescribed to minimize the inflammation of the nerves. Another procedure is the Plasma Exchange; where blood is withdrawn from an individual with MS, the plasma is removed and replaced with new plasma and transferred back into him.
c. To manage Signs & Symptoms
Physical and Occupational Therapies such as stretching exercises and the provision of Mobility aids are handy when it comes to controlling symptoms of MS. Medications too, have been used such as Muscle relaxants, Fatigue-ridden drugs, and medications to aid in Walking in speed with ease.
This Multiple Sclerosis Day, let us hope to bring more awareness about the cause, symptoms, and diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and aim to ease some of the pain that follows, with effective treatment options.
“All my memories of my father include some manifestation of his disability, even if none of us were quite willing to call it that yet. What I knew at the time was that my dad moved a bit more slowly than other dads. I sometimes saw him pausing before walking up a flight of stairs, as if needing to think through the maneuver before actually attempting it.” ― Michelle Obama, Becoming