What is multiple sclerosis ?
- Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease. With these conditions, your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells.
- In people with MS, the immune system attacks cells in the myelin, the protective sheath that surrounds nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
- Damage to the myelin sheath interrupts nerve signals from your brain to other parts of your body. The damage can lead to symptoms affecting your brain, spinal cord and eyes.
How common is multiple sclerosis ?
- Nearly 1 million adults in the U.S. are living with multiple sclerosis. MS commonly affects more women than men. Most people with MS receive a diagnosis between the ages of 20 and 40.
What causes multiple sclerosis ?
- Experts still don’t know for sure what causes multiple sclerosis. Factors that may trigger MS include:
- Exposure to certain viruses or bacteria: Some research suggests that being exposed to certain infections (such as Epstein-Barr virus) can trigger MS later in life.
- Where you live: Areas farther from the equator have higher rates of MS. That may be because these regions receive less intense sun. People who get less sun have lower levels of vitamin D, a risk factor for developing MS.
- How your immune system functions: Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. Researchers are working to figure out what causes some people’s immune cells to mistakenly attack healthy cells.
- Gene mutations: Having a family member with MS does increase your risk of the disease. But it’s still unclear exactly how and which genes play a role in triggering multiple sclerosis.
What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?
- Vision problems: blurriness and pain in one eye are often one of the first signs of multiple sclerosis. Other common symptoms include:
- Changes in gait.
- Loss of balance or coordination.
- Muscle spasms.
- Muscle weakness.
- Tingling or numbness, especially in your legs or arms.
What are the complications of multiple sclerosis?
- If MS progresses, worsening symptoms may lead to complications such as:
- Difficulty walking that may result in needing a cane, walker or wheelchair.
- Loss of bowel or bladder control.
- Memory problems.
- Sexual difficulties.
Who diagnoses multiple sclerosis?
- Many conditions could cause similar neurological symptoms. Getting an accurate diagnosis is sometimes difficult.
- If your primary care provider suspects you may have MS, you will need to see a neurologist who specializes in treating conditions that affect the nervous system.
How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?
- No one test can provide a definitive MS diagnosis. To understand what’s causing symptoms, your healthcare provider will do:
- a physical exam. You may also have
- blood tests and imaging tests, such as MRI
- A spinal tap(lumbar puncture)
- If these tests don’t provide a clear answer, your neurologist may recommend an evoked potentials test. This test checks your nerve function by measuring electrical activity in the brain and spinal cord.
How is multiple sclerosis managed or treated?
- There is currently no cure for MS. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms, reducing relapses and slowing the disease’s progression. Your comprehensive treatment plan may include:
- Disease-modifying therapies They slow down the disease’s progression. And they can prevent new lesions from forming on the brain and spinal cord.
- Relapse management medications If you have a severe attack, your neurologist may recommend a high dose of corticosteroids.
- Physical rehabilitation: Multiple sclerosis can affect your physical function. Staying physically fit and strong will help you maintain your mobility.
- Mental health counseling: Coping with a chronic condition can be emotionally challenging. Working with a neuropsychologist or getting other emotional support is an essential part of managing the disease
How can I prevent a multiple sclerosis flare-up?
- Lifestyle changes that can improve your condition include:
- Eating a healthy diet: that includes lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein. You should also limit your intake of added sugars, unhealthy fats and processed foods.
- Getting regular exercise: Multiple sclerosis can cause muscle weakness, loss of balance and difficulty walking. Aerobic exercise, flexibility and strength training are essential to help keep muscles strong and maintain physical function.
- Managing stress: Stress can take a physical and emotional toll. It can also interfere with sleep, which can worsen MS-related fatigue. It’s important to find ways to manage stress — such as yoga, meditation, exercise, and working with a mental health provider.
- Not smoking and limiting alcohol intake: Smoking and alcohol are linked to worsening MS symptoms and could speed the disease’s progression. Quitting smoking will support your health.
What is the prognosis for people with multiple sclerosis?
- In some cases, multiple sclerosis does lead to disability and loss of some physical or mental function. But thanks to advances in treatment, most people with MS will continue to lead full, active and productive lives. Taking steps to manage your health and lifestyle can help improve your long-term outcome.