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Multiple Sclerosis - Important Info
Written By : M. Lieberman 
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Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system in which patches of myelin and underlying nerve fibers are damaged or destroyed. Over time, the condition gets worse and the individual experiences both a loss of feeling and loss of control of movement and speech.

It poses a serious threat to the individual's brain, spinal cord and or optic nerves. Multiple Sclerosis destroys the myelin sheath, which are layers of tissue that protect the nerve fibers. Myelin aids in nerve cell communication. As this deterioration happens, it becomes noticeable in the individual's behavior, going from normal to abnormal. Multiple Sclerosis can both progress and regress unpredictably.

The actual cause of Multiple Sclerosis is unknown, but it is thought that either a virus or some unknown antigen somehow triggers a reaction that is directed against the body's own tissues and this usually occurs early in life. The autoimmune reaction results in the inflammation, destruction of myelin and significant damage to the myelin sheath and the underlying nerve fibers.

In adults, the myelin sheath can be damaged or destroyed by stroke, inflammation, immune disease, metabolic disorders and any of the various nutritional deficiencies. Poisons and the excessive use of alcohol can also damage and destroy the myelin sheath. If the sheath is able to repair itself and regenerate, there is a possibility for normal nerve function to return. If the sheath is severely damaged, the underlying nerve fiber can die and this results in irreversible damage.

Disorders of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) that cause demyelination and have no known cause are referred to as primary demyelinating disorders. Multiple Sclerosis happens to be the most common of these disorders.

Some of the contributing facts associated with Multiple Sclerosis include heredity and environment.

  • If the gene is present, this greatly contributes to your risk of developing the disease at any stage of life. Children are at risk, if either parent has a history of the disease.
  • Environment also has a role. Temperate and tropical climates have a major effect. Where individuals spend the first 15 years of their life, affects the chances of developing the disease.

As Multiple Sclerosis begins affecting the nervous system, the individual can experience tingling, numbness, pain, burning and itching in the arms, legs, trunk or face and the loss of strength or dexterity in a leg or hand. The person can feel unusually tired; have mood swings, euphoria and depression. Also possible are memory disturbances, decreased judgment and inattention.

Because the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis vary widely, doctors may not be able to recognize the disorder in the earliest stages. When the disease is suspected, a thorough examination of the nervous system is performed during the physical examination. Although there is no single diagnostic test, laboratory tests can help distinguish Multiple Sclerosis from other disorders that can produce similar symptoms, such as AIDs, ALS, Lupus and Lyme disease. A spinal tap may be ordered to check both the white blood cell count and protein content in the fluid, paying special attention to the concentration of antibodies. There is evidence that a specific pattern of antibodies is detected in the majority of people with the disease. MRI's are the best imaging procedure for detecting and confirming the diagnosis.

A procedure that involves evoked responses may be performed. In these tests, certain types of sensory stimuli are used to activate certain areas of the brain and the brain's responses are recorded. In a person who has the disease, the brain's response to the actual stimuli maybe very slow, because the signal conduction along the damaged nerve fibers is impaired. This procedure also helps detect if there is damage to the optic nerve.

There is no treatment for Multiple Sclerosis that is uniformly effective. There are numerous medications that are used in the treatment, such as corticosteroids, but many of the drugs are administered with the hope of controlling the various symptoms. The benefits of using a procedure called plasmapheresis have not been established as yet, but many of the experts recommend it to prevent severe relapses, that are not controlled by the use of corticosteroids. Plasmapheresis involves the removal of blood, so that abnormal antibodies can be removed and then the purified blood is returned to the person.

People with this disease can often maintain an active lifestyle, until they conditions gets worse, which is over time. They may become tired very easily and not be able to keep up with a demanding lifestyle. Light exercise and physical therapy can help maintain cardiovascular, muscular and psychological health. Participating in a physical therapy program can help with maintain balance, walking ability and range of motion.

  • The single most important thing you can do is to maintain a proper diet to strengthen your immune system.
  • Avoid the excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • If you have any other illnesses or disease conditions, you must make your doctor aware of them, so that any medications you might be put on with not have adverse side effects.
  • If you feel that you are experiencing any of the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, it is imperative that you see your doctor as soon as possible.
  • If you are a teen or young adult and either of your parents has the disease, you must advise your doctor of this and be monitored on a regular basis.
  • If you are planning a trip to another state or a foreign country, find out if the change in environment could cause you any types of problems.
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