Multiple Sclerosis – What Is It And What Are The Symptoms?

What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is an autoimmune disease (where the body’s own immune system attacks its own tissues) that affects the central nervous system (including the brain and the spinal cord). MS is a demyelinating disease in which the mylen (the protective sheath that surrounds nerve cells) becomes damaged, which causes nerve impulses to slow down or stop. The nerve damage is caused by inflammation (part of the autoimmune response) that many believe is caused by a virus, a genetic defect, or both. Repeated episodes of inflammation can occur anywhere in the brain, the spinal cord, or in the optic nerve (affecting sight). Environmental factors may also play a role. People with a family history of MS and people who live in a geographical area with a high incidence of MS are at a slighter higher risk for MS. MS affects more women than men. MS is typically diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 40 but may affect people at any age. 

What Are Some Of The Symptoms Of MS?

Because MS is so unpredictable , the symptoms can range from very mild to very severe, and can be debilitating in the worst cases. 

Most people have their first symptoms of MS between ages 20 and 40. The most common initial symptom of MS affects the eyes: blurred vision, double vision, distortion of red-green color, or blindness in one eye.  Besides vision symptoms, most people experience muscle weakness in their extremities and problems with balance and coordination. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, including problems walking, standing, and in the worst cases, paralysis that may be partial or complete. 

Most people who have MS experience paresthesias (a sensation of tingling (“pins and needles” feeling), prickling, or numbness of the skin). People with MS may also experience pain, speech problems, tremors, and/or dizziness. Some people may experience hearing loss. About half of all people with MS have cognitive impairments that may include problems with memory, attention, concentration, and poor judgment, which usually are mild. People with MS are commonly depressed.

Because the location and the severity of each attack can be different, the symptoms can vary. Attacks can last for days, weeks, or months. There are often periods of remission between episodes when there are few, reduced, or no symptoms. MS can get worse even with periods of remission. Relapses (when the symptoms return) are common. There are certain known triggers for MS symptoms that include sun exposure, stress, hot baths, and having a fever, which can make attacks worse.

Because many of the symptoms of MS are similar to the symptoms of other neurological disorders, the diagnosis of MS is usually by way of elimination — when other causes of the symptoms are eliminated, MS may be the diagnosis. MS may be suspected if there are decreases in the function (such as abnormal reflexes) of two different parts of the central nervous system on two different occasions. People with the relapsing-remitting form of MS may have a history of at least two attacks that are separated by a period of no symptoms or reduced symptoms. Symptoms may include various muscular symptoms, bladder and bowel symptoms, eye symptoms, sexual function symptoms, and commonly include fatigue as the disease progresses that is often worse late in the afternoon. 

Treatment For MS

While science strives for a cure for MS, there is presently no known cure for MS. However, there are therapies that can slow the progression of the disease and control the symptoms of the disease with the goal of maintaining a normal quality of life. Certain medications when taken over a long period of time can slow the progression of MS. Steroids may be used to reduce the severity of attacks. 

What’s The Prognosis For People With MS?

While there is no cure for MS, the life expectancy can be normal or almost normal. Most people who have MS are able to continue to walk and to function with minimal disability for 20 years or more. The people with the best prognosis tend to be female, less than 30 when MS started, those who have infrequent attacks, those who have the relapsing-remitting form of MS, and people whose imaging studies show limited disease. The effects of MS usually depend upon the frequency of attacks, the severity of the attacks, and the location in the central nervous system affected by each attack. While most people return to normal or near-normal functioning between attacks, over time there is greater loss of function and less improvement between attacks that ultimately may require the use of a wheelchair.

Sources: NIH , NCBI

If your health care provider failed to properly diagnose your MS in a timely fashion and the failure resulted in further deterioration in your medical condition, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. Visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice attorneys in your area who may be able to assist you with your claim. You may also call us toll free at 800-295-3959. Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 14th, 2011 at 10:53 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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