Multiple Sclerosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Multiple sclerosis is a disease that attacks the central nervous system. The current estimate is that there are 2.3 million people with this disease globally. It is sometimes called MS for short. With MS, the immune system attacks the myelin that covers nerve fibers and prevents the brain from communicating with other parts of the body. MS can cause some people to lose the ability to walk. Many people with MS have episodes or attacks where the symptoms of the disease become severe. There is no cure for MS, but there are treatments to help reduce the severity of symptoms and help reduce the number of attacks the patient experiences.

Multiple Sclerosis Causes

The cause of MS is unknown, but it is classified as an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks the myelin in the body. The myelin protects the nerves and allows messages that travel along those nerves to do so smoothly. When MS causes the myelin to dissolve, the messages are slowed or get interrupted. Genetics and environmental factors are believed to affect who contracts the disease.

Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

The symptoms of multiple sclerosis can vary from person to person. The disease can become worse over time, and some people have hardly any symptoms at all. Some of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:

  • Numbness in the arms and legs
  • Muscle weakness
  • Double vision
  • Tingling in the limbs
  • Pain in the limbs
  • Electric shocks feelings with neck movements
  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Bowel and bladder issues

Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis

Diagnosing MS can be difficult because there are no tests that can show the disease. Doctors usually use the patient’s history and symptoms to determine a diagnosis. There are a few tests that doctors may use to confirm their diagnosis and to rule out other diseases and illnesses that could have the same symptoms. These tests include:

  • Blood tests: These tests help rule out other illnesses and diseases
  • Spinal taps: Doctors collect samples of spinal fluid and test them for abnormalities.
  • MRI: Doctors can look at the brain to see if there are any lesions that could point to MS.

Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, but there are treatments that can help sufferers live normal lives. Treatments are focused on reducing the severity of the symptoms and helping patients recover faster in between attacks. Some common treatment options include:

  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids help reduce the inflammation of the nerves, so signals can get transmitted faster.
  • Plasma: Plasma can be given to help reduce the symptoms. It is especially effective for people who are experiencing new symptoms or who do not respond well to steroids.
  • Beta interferons: These medications are injected under the skin and directly into the muscles to help reduce attacks.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help delay immobility and help with pain and stiffness.
  • Muscle relaxers: Muscle relaxers can be given to reduce stiffness and pain associated with tremors and MS attacks.

Multiple Sclerosis Prognosis

People who have MS can live normal lives as long as they respond well to treatment. The disease can progress quickly or slowly, so it is important for each patient to find a treatment that works for them. Avoiding complications is the ultimate goal.