A comprehensive list of today's common ailments and health conditions.
By Angela Young
Multiple sclerosis is an extremely crippling and potentially fatal autoimmune disease. With this particular autoimmune disease the immune system, which normally protects the body by attacking bacteria and other foreign substances, attacks the body itself. The target of the immune system attack in multiple sclerosis is the brain and the spinal cord. Both the brain and the spinal cord impact and control the central nervous system.
Multiple sclerosis affects each person suffering from it differently and at a different pace. The disease affects over 400,000 people in the United States. Multiple sclerosis is one of the most common causes of neurological disabilities for people who are in early to middle adulthood. The risk of developing multiple sclerosis is highest from the teen year until about age 50, with the risk decreasing after that. Women are also more likely to develop multiple sclerosis than men at a rate of two to three times.
The symptoms of multiple sclerosis can vary from person to person. The symptoms also increase in severity the longer someone suffers from the disease. Early symptoms of multiple sclerosis are not usually severe enough to cause much alarm in people, but eventually most will seek a physicians help for anyone of the following muscle weakness, blurry or hazy vision, eye pain, difficulty with coordination and double vision.
As the attack on the central nervous system continues, symptoms will progress and may include urinary incontinence, cognitive issues, muscle stiffness and pain.
Like most autoimmune diseases doctors don’t completely understand what causes the development of multiple sclerosis, but they do understand the causes of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Some doctors believe that multiple sclerosis is has roots in a person’s genetics, their environment and that there is the possibility that a virus plays a role.
The symptoms of multiple sclerosis develop because scar tissue develops in the brain and spine as the myelin that surrounds each nerve begins to break down. The myelin helps insulate the nerve and assists with the transmission of signals from the brain to the rest of the body. The build up of scar tissue (sclerosis) cause the miscommunication of signals leading to many of the symptoms commonly associated with multiple sclerosis.
Diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is far from perfect. Currently there is no test that clearly diagnoses multiple sclerosis. Because diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is imperfect it is important that patients seek out a neurologist specializing in multiple sclerosis in order to have their symptoms properly evaluated.
Most multiple sclerosis diagnoses involve a thorough review of a patients medical history, an evaluation of the symptoms they present and additional testing that includes MRI’s, spinal taps, and blood tests. These tests are not always necessary, but can be a way to confirm the doctor’s suspicions.
Some of the criteria that doctors look for when evaluating a patient for a possible multiple sclerosis diagnosis include symptom onset between the ages of 20 and 50, signs and symptoms of a diseased brain or spine, two or more lesions are apparent in the MRI scan, two or more episodes lasting for more than 24 hours and simply, no other explanation for the symptoms.
Currently there is no cure for multiple sclerosis. There are medications that show great promise in slowing the progression of multiples sclerosis. The medications work by altering or suppressing the immune system. These medications operate on the theory that multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. The drugs do seem to reduce the severity and frequency of multiple sclerosis attacks in most patients. The goal is to reduce the amount of future disabilities from the disease.
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