What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.  It typically affects more women than men and is most commonly diagnosed between ages 20 and 40.  The disease results from damage to the protective covering of our nerves.  When this protection is damaged, nerve signals can slow down or stop completely.  Multiple Sclerosis refers to the scars, plaques, or lesions that form in the white matter of the brain and spinal cord.  The exact cause is unknown, but is commonly thought that it results from a virus or gene defect or perhaps environmental factors.

What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?

Some of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis are as follows:

  • Muscle symptoms: loss of balance; muscle spasms; numbness or abnormal sensations; problems moving arms, legs or walking; problems with coordination and small movements; tremors; weakness
  • Bowel and bladder: constipation and stool leakage; difficulty urinating; frequent urination; incontinence
  • Vision symptoms: double vision; eye discomfort; uncontrollable rapid eye movements; vision loss
  • Other brain and nerve symptoms: decreased attention span; poor judgment; memory loss; difficulty reasoning and solving problems; depression; dizziness and balance problems; hearing loss
  • Fatigue

How do you diagnosis multiple sclerosis?

Diagnosis of multiple sclerosis occurs by ruling out other conditions.  Typical tests done to confirm diagnosis are an MRI of the brain and spine, and spinal taps.

How do treat multiple sclerosis?

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for multiple sclerosis.  The main goal of treatment is to control symptoms, slow the progression and maintain a normal quality of life.  Various medications and steroids can be utilized in treatment, in addition to physical, speech and occupational therapy.

Some multiple sclerosis patients also have blockages in veins in their necks or chests.  It is unknown whether the blockages cause symptoms of multiple sclerosis, but there is a controversial theory linking multiple sclerosis to chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency.  Multiple studies have been done to find out if symptoms of the disorder could be improved by clearing the blockages, through a procedure called balloon angioplasty, similar to that often used for patients who have clogged arteries.

Who is at risk for multiple sclerosis?

As for who is at risk, it is unclear as to why some people get it and some people don’t. What we know for now is that there are risk factors that may increase your risk of developing the disease. They include:

1. Family history

2. Race: White people, particularly those of Northern European descent, are at highest risk of developing MS

3. Age: MS most commonly affects people between the ages of 15 and 60.

4. Smoking

5. Sex: Women are about twice as likely as men are to develop MS.