Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - Health Center

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST

Multiple Sclerosis - Overview

Multiple Sclerosis is better known as a disease in which the immune system of the affected person attacks the myelin sheath which covers the surface of the nerves. When the myelin damage occurs, then it tends to interrupt the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Eventually, as the disease progresses, it leads to the wear and tear of the nerves which is an irreversible process. The symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis tend to vary from one person to the other and are dependent on the amount of damage which has been caused to the nerves due to the disease. While some people who suffer from the disease are unable to walk, others can remain in remission for a long time, without showing any considerable symptoms.

There is no known cure for Multiple Sclerosis. However, with the help of treatments, speedy recovery from the attacks can be attained, and a person can modify the course of the disease along with the management of the major symptoms.

Causes of Multiple Sclerosis

The cause for the occurrence of Multiple Sclerosis is unknown. Mostly, it is believed to be an autoimmune disease in which the immune system of the body tends to attack itself. The immune system destroys the myelin sheath, which is a fatty substance coating and protecting the nerve fibers of the brain and spinal cord.

With the damaging of the Myelin, the nerve impulses can be slowed down or blocked. Genetics and other factors such as childhood infections are known to be some of the plausible factors towards the development of Multiple Sclerosis.

Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis:

The symptoms of the disease tend to vary from one person to the other.

However, some of the major signs are as follows

  • Weakness as well as numbness in the limbs on one side of the body.
  • Complete or partial loss of vision in one eye at a time
  • Blurring or doubling of the vision
  • Tingling sensation across the different parts of the body
  • Electric shock like sensation in the neck area
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurring of the speech
  • Increased fatigue
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

There are many known cases in which people relapse of the disease over a period of few weeks. This is followed by the improvement in the symptoms. Around 60-70% of people develop a steady progression in their symptoms, without any period of remittance in between.

Tests and Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis

There is no specific test or diagnosis of the disease. However, the doctor tends to start with a complete check of the previous medical history of the patient as well as a physical examination.

The following tests can be recommended in order to ascertain the condition:

  • Blood tests: This is done in order to rule out the possibility of any infections or inflammatory diseases, which may have similar symptoms as Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Spinal Tap: In this test, a small amount of fluid is removed from the spinal canal and is sent for laboratory tests. This sample is checked for any abnormalities in the amount of the white blood cells and the antibodies. A spinal tap is also recommended in order to rule out the possibility of some viral infections bearing the same symptoms as MS.
  • MRI: MRI scans are done in order to check the patient for any lesions in the brain or the spinal cord. Sometimes, an intravenous dye is added before the scan in order to highlight the lesions which could be indicate any disease in the active phase of progression.
  • Treatment and Drugs for Multiple Sclerosis: There is no known cure for Multiple Sclerosis. Treatment options focus to improve the recovery period from the attacks and tend to work towards slowing down the progression of the disease in the affected person.

Treatment for the attacks

Corticosteroids: These include oral prednisone and IV methylprednisolone. They are prescribed in order to reduce the inflammation of the nerves and may include side effects such as insomnia, increase in the blood pressure as well as mood swings.

Plasmapheresis: In this, a liquid portion of the plasma is removed and is separated from the blood cells. Later, the blood cells are mixed with albumin and are put back into the body. This treatment option however is only for the patients whose symptoms are severe and are not responding well to the steroids.
Beta Interferon: These medications are injected into the skin or the muscle of the infected person in order to reduce the severity and the chances of the relapse.
Copaxone: These medications tend to block the attack of the immune system on the myelin sheaths. The medication is injected beneath the skin of the affected person.
Tysabri: These medications tend to block off the movement of the damaging immune cells in the bloodstream of the brain and the spinal cord. These medications increase the chance of the viral infections to the brain. This is generally given to the patients who are suffering from extreme symptoms of MS and who are not responding to the treatments.
Physical Therapy: This focuses on teaching the patient about stretching and strengthening exercises which makes it easier for them to perform some of the very basic tasks.
Muscle Relaxants: These are given to the patients in order to get over the muscle stiffness and spasms. Medicines such as Lioresal, Gablofen and Zanaflex are best known to help.

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