What is Multiple Sclerosis? (2)
I am certainly no expert but here is my readers digest version of what MS actually is. First of all, Multiple Sclerosis is both an autoimmune disorder and a chronic neurological disease.
An autoimmune disorder means that a person’s immune system is out of whack. The body’s immune system usually protects you from disease and infections; if someone has an autoimmune disease their immune system actually attacks the healthy cells in their body. Both my parents died as a result of an autoimmune disorder. To learn more check out my friend Marta’s blog post; http://findthecommonthread.com/about/
When someone has MS they have a malfunction of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord) caused by damage to the protective covering of their nerve fibres. This protective covering is called myelin and it is similar to the insulation on an electrical wire. Where the myelin is damaged scar tissue forms, this is called sclerosis, with MS this damage takes place in several varied locations throughout the nerve fibres (multiple locations) hence the name Multiple Sclerosis. The damaged myelin causes a disruption of the impulses being sent along the nerve fibres. It is this disruption of impulses through the nerve fibres to the brain that lead to the varied symptoms of MS. Damaged myelin can regenerate itself but with MS it cannot generate effectively or quickly enough.
There are 4 different types of MS.
The most common is called RELAPSING – REMITTING which involves clearly defined attacks of worsening neurologic function These attacks—which are called relapse are followed by partial or complete recovery periods (remissions)
PRIMARY – PROGRESSIVE characterized by slowly worsening neurologic function from the beginning—with no distinct relapses or remissions, occasional plateaus and temporary minor improvements.
SECONDARY – PROGRESSIVE after an initial period of relapsing-remitting MS, many people develop this secondary-progressive disease course in which the disease worsens more steadily, with or without occasional flare-ups, minor recoveries (remissions), or plateaus. Before the disease-modifying medications became available, approximately 50% of people with relapsing-remitting MS developed this form of the disease within 10 years
PROGRESSIVE – RELAPSING, this is a relatively rare course of MS. Some people experience steadily worsening disease from the beginning, but with clear attacks of worsening neurologic function along the way. They may or may not experience any recovery following these relapses, and the disease continues to progress without remissions.
Symptoms vary greatly from one person to another but some of the common symptoms are: Loss of vision, blurred vision, stiffness, weakness, imbalance, numbness, pain, fatigue, emotional changes, intellectual impairment etc.
Nobody knows for sure what causes MS, but most scientists agree that it
involves a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Different
factors that are linked to MS include:
– Cold Climates/ Lack of Vitamin D: MS occurs most commonly in those living in northern climates. Apparently, where you spend the first 15 years of your life plays a role in your odds of developing MS. Canadians
have one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world. (see map)
– Infection: Researchers believe that many autoimmune diseases are provoked by some kind of infection that may affect people differently who have a certain genetic makeup. The infection can trick your body’s immune system into attacking your own tissues, even after the infection
– Family history: While scientists have determined that there is no MS gene, research has shown that you are more likely to get MS if someone in your family has it