What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease causing damage to the central nervous system. The central nervous system comprises the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. The effect on the central nervous system can lead to a wide range of symptoms throughout the body.
This is a lifelong condition and this can sometimes cause serious disability. This can occasionally be a mild condition. Scientists sometimes believe it is an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The immune system attacks the healthy tissues of people suffering from an autoimmune disease, just as it might attack a virus or bacteria.
In the case of multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the myelin sheath surrounding and protects the nerve fibers, causing inflammation. Myelin helps scar tissue in multiple areas.
The scars develop when the myelin sheath disappears or sustains damage in multiple areas, it is known as sclerosis. These damaged areas are also called plaques or lesions. They mostly affect:
The brain stem.
The cerebellum coordinates movement and controls balance.
The spinal cord.
The optic nerves.
White matter in regions of the brain.
The nerve fibers can break or become damaged, as more lesions develop. This may result in the electrical impulses from the brain being disrupted and doesn’t flow smoothly to the target nerve impacting certain functions.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis and its Stages
The cause of multiple sclerosis remains unknown, but the studies indicate a link between the Epstein Barr Virus, environmental factors, a lack of vitamin D, or parasites affecting the immune response in the central nervous system.
Multiple sclerosis is distinguished between the different types of conditions that are identified in four distinct categories.
Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)
Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS)
Primary-progressive MS (PPMS)
Secondary-progressive MS (SPMS)
Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS): This is a single, first episode, with neurological symptoms lasting at least 24 hours. The symptoms cannot be limited to fever, infection, or other illnesses. The symptoms result in inflammation or demyelination in the central nervous system.
The symptoms might be monofocal or multifocal episodes. The chances of having another attack are around 60-80% if an MRI detects brain lesions similar to those found in people with MS. The doctor would diagnose multiple sclerosis if an MRI detects older lesions in a different part of your central nervous system confirming a previous attack, even if you weren’t aware of it. Your doctor might also confirm multiple sclerosis if your cerebrospinal fluid contains oligoclonal bands.
Re-lapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS): This is the most common type of Multiple Sclerosis. Approximately 85 percent of people with MS have re-lapsing remitting multiple sclerosis at the time of diagnosis.
You may experience the below at the time of Re-lapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis:
Clearly defined relapses or flare-ups resulting in episodes of intensive worsening of neurologic functions.
Partial or complete recovery periods after the relapses as well as between attacks when the disease stops progressing.
Mild to severe symptoms as well as relapses and remissions lasting for days or months.
Primary progressive MS (PPMS): The symptoms may worsen progressively from the time of its onset without early relapses or remissions. Symptoms occur at the same level of intensity without decreasing, with no remission periods. Some people may experience times of stability as well as periods when symptoms worsen and eventually get better. Almost 15% of people with MS have PPMS.
It has been observed that patients with PPMS experience a fairly continuous worsening of their condition. But, there can be variations in the rate of progression over the progress of the disease. There is a possibility of minor improvements, usually temporary and occasional plateaus in symptom progression.
People with primary progressive MS are usually older almost an average age of 40. Almost equal numbers of men and women suffer from MS. It usually leads to disability earlier than the most common type, relapsing-remitting MS.
Secondary progressive MS (SPMS): Initially, people will experience episodes of relapse and remission, but later the disease will progress steadily. Secondary progressive multiple sclerosis is more of a mixed bag. At first, it may comprise a period of relapsing-remitting activity, with symptom flare-ups followed by recovery periods. This period of fluctuation is followed by a steady worsening of the condition. People with secondary progression may experience minor remissions or plateaus in their symptoms. Without treatment, almost half of people with RRMS may develop SPMS within a decade.
Cause of Multiple Sclerosis
The cause of multiple sclerosis is not completely determined. It is usually considered to be caused by an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues. In the case of multiple sclerosis, the immune system malfunction destroys the fatty substance that covers and protects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord or myelin.
Myelin is similar to the insulation coating on electrical wires. In case the protective myelin is damaged it caused the nerve fiber to be exposed. The damage would disrupt the messages that travel along that nerve fiber to be slowed or blocked.
Various factors that can increase the risk of multiple sclerosis include:
Age: It can occur at any age, but usually occurs around 20 and 40 years of age.
Sex: Women are more prone than men are to have relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
Family history: If one of your parents or siblings has had MS, you are at higher risk of developing the disease.
Certain infections: Some viruses have been linked to MS, such as Epstein-Barr, the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis.
Race: White people, mainly of Northern European descent, are at the highest risk of developing MS. Asian, African, or Native American descent are at the lowest risk.
Climate: It is more common in countries with temperate climates, such as Canada, the northern United States, New Zealand, southeastern Australia, and Europe.
Vitamin D: Having low levels of vitamin D and low exposure to sunlight increases the risk of MS.
Certain autoimmune diseases: The risk is slightly high if you have autoimmune disorders such as thyroid disease, pernicious anemia, psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, or inflammatory bowel disease.
Smoking: Smokers with the initial event of symptoms are more to develop relapsing-remitting MS.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary widely from person to person and affect any part of the body. The main symptoms include:
Vision problems, such as blurred vision.
Problems with bladder control.
Numbness or tingling in different parts of the body.
Muscle stiffness and spasms.
Problems with balance and coordination.
Problems with thinking, learning, and planning.
The symptoms may come and go in phases depending on the type of MS you are suffering from. The symptoms may steadily worsen over time or progress.
Multiple sclerosis is most likely the result of an autoimmune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. The body creates antibodies against itself, causing damage to the central nervous system. The damage mostly occurs in the covering, or myelin, of nerves.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from multiple sclerosis, our expert providers at ASP Cares will take care of your health and help you recover.
Call us on (210)-417-4567 to book an appointment with our specialists.