Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease that affects roughly 2.5 million people worldwide. In this disorder, the body’s immune system acts against the central nervous system – the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Such a condition is called an autoimmune disease. Normally, the immune system defends our body from the assault of foreign elements.
Let’s understand it
The cells involved with resistance target and destroy the foreign bodies such as bacteria and other germs. But in MS, the immune system mistakes myelin (a fatty coating that protects the nerve fibers) to get a foreign chemical and destroys it. That’s the reason why Multiple Sclerosis is also referred to as a demyelinating disorder. Why does the body violate the myelin coat? It’s still not clear why the immune system attacks the myelin substance that’s native to the human body.
Scientists suggest genetic and environmental factors for this particular behavior of the immune system. Some researchers also believe that certain viruses may cause this disease. However, there’s absolutely no strong scientific background with this theory. The disease presents with unique symptoms in different patients. There’s absolutely no definite sequence in which the symptoms appear.
In certain patients, the symptoms are mild and go unnoticed during the early phases while others, disturbing symptoms occur earlier and might last for a while. Though the disease can affect individuals of all ages, the first symptoms usually appear between 20 and 40 years old. The symptoms depend upon the portion of the nervous system affected. The symptoms commonly include visual disturbances, tingling sensations, numbness, bladder and bowel disturbances, nausea, fatigue, loss of balance, cognitive disturbances, psychological changes, muscle cramps and sexual dysfunction.
Another peculiarity of MS is that it’s not feasible to predict the disease development. Some might show a symptom that persists for a little while and then subsides. They may have no other symptom for ages. While in others, there may be a rapid development of the disease so that they might appear with many symptoms within a restricted period. There’s no specific laboratory test to confirm the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.
The symptoms of MS aren’t specific for this disorder. Furthermore, it’s extremely tricky to establish this diagnosis after one episode of symptomatic attack. The other potential causes of these symptoms will need to be ruled out before coming into the identification of MS. There are many criteria where the disease can be verified. Additionally it is essential that the damage caused by the central nervous system is supported by other methods like imaging methods, CSF analysis and other neurological studies.
MRI is the best imaging technique to confirm the damage has happened. Another advantage of MRI is that it can pinpoint the site of damage. This when corresponds to the neurological symptom within the patient, the diagnosis is confirmed. The available treatment options focus on reducing the frequency and severity of symptoms and slowing the disease progression. Medicines such as symptom-management, disease modifying drugs, alternative therapies and diet and lifestyle changes are all aimed at improving the’quality of life’ of the suffering patients. Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for the disease right now.