Multiple Sclerosis: Symptoms and Treatment

Overview

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a long-lasting disease that can affect your brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves in your eyes. In MS, the immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath, or the protective protein coat around nerve fibers.

The cause of multiple sclerosis is not yet fully understood. Depending on the amount of nerve damage and the part of affected nerves, symptoms of MS vary widely from person to person. Some typical symptoms are visual changes, numbness, bladder issues, fatigue, depression and disability of walking. Contemporary treatments have not been able to cure MS yet, but can relieve some of its symptoms.

Young adults are most frequently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 250,000–350,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Worldwide, the prevalence of MS is 30 per 100,000.

Causes

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder, its exact causes are still not clear. But several factors may play an important role, including:

  • Presence of other autoimmune diseases

You might be more likely to get MS, if you are diagnosed with other autoimmune conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, thyroid disease, or type 1 diabetes.

  • Living environment

People living in cooler climates like Scotland, Scandinavia, Canada, northern U.S, New Zealand, southeastern Australia and Europe are more prone to develop MS.

  • Smoking

Habitual smokers are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis with a faster progression than non-smokers.

  • Age

This disease appear most frequently among people between 15 and 60 years old, although it can develop at any age.

  • Sex

There’s growing proof that sex hormones, can affect and be affected by your immune system. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease as men.

  • Genetics

For those who have siblings or twins with MS, they are more likely to develop the disease.

  • Exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus

MS risk is said to be higher in people who developed an Epstein-Barr virus-caused sickness.

Symptoms

Any two people affected with MS will not develop the same symptoms. There are three types of symptoms categorized by the stages of multiple sclerosis:

Primary symptoms

  • Numbness or weakness
  • Electric-shock sensations
  • Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait
  • Vision problems
  • Speech problems
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Emotional changes and depression
  • Heat-related problems
  • Tingling or pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Problems with sexual, bowel and bladder function
  • Problems with thinking ability

Secondary Symptoms

These are problems created by primary MS symptoms

  • bladder infection
  • Being less active
  • Shallow breathing
  • Decreased muscle tone
  • Decreased bone density

Tertiary Symptoms

  • Less involvement in social activities
  • Depression
  • Other related psychological problems

Diagnosis

No specific tests are aimed at diagnosing MS, so a differential diagnosis is usually carried out. The key point is to eliminate other potential diseases with symptoms similar to MS.

Your doctor is likely to start with a thorough medical history and examination.

Your doctor may then recommend:

  • Blood tests
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)
  • brain imaging scans, such as MRI
  • Evoked potential tests

Diagnosing MS can be more difficult in people with unusual symptoms or progressive disease. In these cases, further testing with spinal fluid analysis, evoked potentials and additional imaging may be needed.

Treatment

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, some of the following treatments are available to speed recovery from attacks, slow the progression of the disease and manage MS symptoms.

Treatments for MS attacks

Treatments to modify progression

Treatment options for relapsing-remitting MS include injectable medications. Examples of medications are listed as follows:

Treatments for MS signs and symptoms

  • Physical therapy
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Medications to reduce fatigue and increase walking speed

Keywords: multiple sclerosis, MS.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.