Multiple sclerosis is an auto immune disorder in which the immune system starts attacking the bodies nervous system. The myelin sheaths around the nerves are attacked and start to break down. These sheaths protect the nerve fibers in the brain and the spinal cord from damage. The myelin sheath is something akin to an insulator for the nerve fibers. When this protective sheath is broken down or destroyed then the impulses or messages from the brain and the spinal cord to the individual areas of the body can either be slowed down or blocked entirely. Researchers still do not know the exact cause of Multiple Sclerosis, however they feel that there are a range of factors that may play a role in a person’s risk of this disease.
Multiple sclerosis may hit people of any age however it predominately is seen in people from the ages of 20 up to the age of 40. Women are much more likely to contract this disease than men are. Heredity also plays a factor in those who are at risk of multiple sclerosis. People who have a parent or sibling with MS have a 1 in 3 chance of developing the disease themselves.
Certain viruses have been linked to this disease. Researchers have linked the Epstein-Barr virus to multiple sclerosis. Epstein-Barr is the virus that causes mononucleosis. However, they are not sure how the two are related exactly. Caucasian people who have ancestors from northern Europe are much more likely to contract MS than people who are African American, Asian or Native American. Multiple sclerosis seems to be more prevalent in areas of the globe that have temperate climates such as southern Canada and the northern United States.
People who have certain diseases are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis than those who are healthy. These people are those who have type I diabetes, people with thyroid disease and those with inflammatory bowel disease.
Some of the signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis include numbness and weakness in the limbs of the body. This numbness tends to be on one side of the body or the other. People can have visual disturbances such as blurred vision, double vision, or loss of vision in one eye. Some people encounter electric shock type sensations that happen when they move their head in certain ways. People with MS have reported fatigue for no reason, bouts of dizziness, tremors, and problems with coordination, balance and gait.
In the early days of multiple sclerosis, people will have symptoms for a certain period of time which will then either partially or completely resolve themselves. These problems when they flare up may very well be triggered by an increase in the body temperature or can be made worse by the body temperature increasing.
There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. Treatment is designed to treat the symptoms that occur or to reduce the autoimmune response to keep the break down of myelin to a minimum. Some of the medications that can be used to treat multiple sclerosis include oral steroids. These are used to treat the inflammation that occurs when there is a relapse.
Copaxone is a drug that is used to block the immune system’s attack of the myelin sheath around the nerves. This is an injectible drug that needs to be taken once daily. There are side effects of this medication and they include some flushing and shortness of breath after an injection. Tysabri is another drug that is used to keep the damaging immune cells that are in the bloodstream from reaching the brain and the spinal cord. This drug has some very severe side effects and is usually reserved for people who have not responded to any other treatment.
Other therapies that can be utilized for people with multiple sclerosis include physical therapy to stretch and strengthen muscles. The therapist can also work with patients by giving them devices that can assist them with their adult daily living. Plasmapheresis is another procedure that can be utilized where the blood cells are separated from the plasma. These plasma exchanges can be used for people who are having a severe relapse of symptoms and are not responding to other therapies such as steroids.
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