Multiple sclerosis (MS) is considered an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own tissues that mainly affects the brain, spinal cord and the optic nerves of the eyes. The immune system attacks the fatty substance known as myelin that acts as a protective cover for the nerve fibers resulting in communication problems between the brain and the body. Generally speaking, the disease is potentially disabling as it causes problems with your vision, muscle control and the body’s ability to perform basic function but the effects are different for everyone that develops this disease. Some can have mild symptoms that don’t require treatment while others are severely affected and need MS medications along with other treatments. The symptoms that appear will depend on how much damage the nerve tissue has suffered and there are severe cases where people lose complete ability to walk and communicate. Although there is no known cause of this disease there are certain factors that may increase the risk of developing MS such as family history. If the disease is present in your parents or grandparents then you are more likely to develop it. There are also certain infections that have been linked to MS such as the Epstein-Barr virus. Low levels of Vitamin D in the body have also been associated with this disease.
There are many unpredictable symptoms of MS but here are some common signs that will help in detecting this disease early on so that you can know whether you need MS medications or not:
- Vision problems are one of the most common signs as the inflammation can damage the optic nerve leading to blurred vision or loss of it. These problems cannot be detected immediately as the degeneration of vision is slow. There may also be some pain when you look up or from one side to another.
- As MS affects the brain and disrupts its signals to the body, it can lead to numbness and tingling as sometimes there is a complete lack of signals.
- People who suffer from this disease also have chronic pain and stiffness in the muscles that lead to spasms. The most common area that is affected are the legs and the back.
- Unexplained weakness and tiredness are another early sign as this occurs when the nerves in the spinal column begin to deteriorate.
- People with MS also suffer from dizziness and problems with balance especially when they stand up.
- The bladder also gets affected leading to loss of bowel control, frequent need to urinate or inability to hold it in.
- There are also changes in emotional health such as the onslaught of depression, mood swings and irritability. People may also suffer from episodes of uncontrollable crying and hysterical laughter.
The diagnosis of this disease consists if ruling out other conditions that have similar symptoms. When you visit your doctor, they will firstly recommend blood tests to determine if you have the bio markers for MS. There is also the spinal tap in which fluid is taken from your spinal canal to help identify any abnormalities in the antibodies as well as ruling out any infections. An MRI is also performed to see which areas of the brain the disease is affecting. There are also evoked potential tests that record the signals produced by your nervous system when exposed to certain stimuli. This includes watching a visual pattern or short electrical impulse being implied to the nerves in the legs and arms. As there us no cure the treatment focuses on speedy recovery from the attacks and slowing down the progress of the disease as swell as dealing with the symptoms. One of the treatments for the attacks is plasma exchange where the plasma of the blood is separated from the cells and then the cells are mixed with a protein solution and injected back into the body. This treatment is used when the body does not respond to MS medications such as steroids. Doctors also recommend physical therapy for patients so that they can better perform their daily tasks. MS medications also include muscle relaxants for stiffness as well as medicines to help with the fatigue and depression.