- EXACTLY WHAT IS MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS?
- MS is a disease of the central nervous system, including the brain and the spinal cord. It is usually diagnosed in individuals between the age of 20 and 40 although this isn't a hard and fast rule. The covering of the nerves called the 'myelin sheath' is destroyed. Compare the sheath to the rubber covering electrical wires. It ensures that the 'messages' (or impulses) go where they are supposed quickly.
When this sheath is destroyed, the messages that the brain send out to move body parts, for example, and the messages to the brain are not transmitted correctly. This can cause slow or uncoordinated movement, and body parts can go numb. Basically, you lose control of your body.
The loss of the sheath can be healed, which is called remission, but it leaves a scar (sclerosis). These scars permanently interfere with motor and sensory control.
- HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
- Every person that has MS has different systems. The disease is not the same for each individual it strikes. Some people experience numbness in their hands and lack of coordination, others could have visual problems and loss of bladder control. Other symtoms could include weakness, loss of balance, loss of bowel control, difficulty speaking, and fatigue.
Multiple Sclerosis is not contagious or fatal, although there is a type of MS that can shorten life expectancy. Only a few individuals diagnosed with MS have this type.
Unfortunately, there is not a single, or simple test to determine if an individual has MS. CAT scans, MRI's, and spinal taps may hint at MS. A neurologist can make the determination when there are obvious signs of something wrong with the central nervous system. Sometimes it takes years for MS to be diagnosed correctly.
- WHAT CAUSES MS AND IS THERE A CURE?
- There is no defined cause of MS. Some theories suggest genetics, but this is uncertain. The destruction of the myelin sheath seems to be caused by an unusual response of the immune system. In other words, the body's cells seem to react against the body. A virus or other illness could possibly cause this.
There is no cure for MS....yet. There are treatments which help slow the disease down, though. Various medications have been developed over the years which have tremendously improved the life of an MS victim. In addition, living the right lifestyle helps to relieve symptoms. Heat saps an individuals strength, so stay indoors on hot, humid days. Caffeine and alcohol have the same affect for people with MS as they do for others....except worse. It is best to avoid them. Proper exercise--meaning not too much--has been found to help relieve muscle spasms and to even improve coordination.