Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment
Multiple sclerosis is a disorder of the central nervous system. It primarily targets your spinal cord and brain. This disorder is categorized under inflammatory disorders. What happens in it is that your body’s white blood cells or WBCs that are mainly responsible for fighting off infections instead travel to the nervous system and damage it. Multiple sclerosis is also called a demyelinating disorder. It is called so because it renders the nerves unable to conduct electricity which causes different symptoms associated with the disorder. The nerves are stripped of their myelin sheath which protects them. Apart from not performing their function, they also get inflamed.
Multiple sclerosis is a condition that affects more than 2 million people worldwide. Its intensity differs from person to person. Some people may experience it in a very mild form. They may not even be aware that they are suffering from it. However, there are others who feel its symptoms quite intensely.
What Exactly Is Multiple Sclerosis?
Spinal cord anatomy, Credit: Canva
You might wonder, what exactly happens in MS. It is a disorder that arises when the immune system of a person attacks myelin, which is a protective fatty material that surrounds your nerves. It acts as an outer shield for your nerves, in the absence of which they deteriorate. In the case of multiple sclerosis, since the myelin sheath is being attacked by your own immune system, it means your nerves cannot send signals from your brain to your body. It makes your body difficult to perform tasks like moving and feeling as your nerves are rendered inefficient.
What Are Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms?
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Before knowing about symptoms, you should become aware of what age does MS usually start? It is usually younger adults who are in the age group of 30 years. Also, it has been observed that women are three times more likely to experience this condition than their male counterparts. You might ask, what was your first sign of MS? As mentioned before, MS affects people in different ways. There is no way to find out which kind of symptoms a patient might experience before he or she is diagnosed with this condition.
Again, an important point that needs to be reiterated is that one should not take a set number of symptoms as uniform among all the patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. What is felt by one individual may highly differ from what is experienced by another person. The symptoms also vary greatly as the disease progresses. It is usually dependent on where the affected nerve fibers are located. Although its symptoms are characterized by the way they impact the movement of a person.
As a general rule, however, you should be aware of the following crucial symptoms that accompany this disorder in a majority of people everywhere.
Weakness or a numbing sensation in either one or more than one limbs. This sensation can be felt in only one side or part of the body at a single time.
Electric current like sensations may accompany your normal neck movements. You may feel this kind of sensation when you are bending forward your neck.
People may also experience tremors while walking which gives them an unstable gait.
Problems related to the vision like its partial or total loss. It starts with one eye and the person will feel pain in regular eye movements.
Double vision problems will persist for a long period.
Blurry or unclear vision.
Speech may become slurred.
Weakness and dizziness.
Tingling sensation in various organs of the body.
Bladder, bowel, and sexual function movements.
Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis?
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The diagnosis of MS is often a difficult process. It is because there is no one test that can help the doctors to confidently point out the presence of multiple sclerosis in the patient. The diagnosis is all the more complicated by the fact that this disorder differs in intensity in different people. However, what has been observed is that most people suffering from it have an existing medical history of neurological symptoms that may stay or not over the course of one’s life.
It is on the basis of these neurological symptoms that doctors can point out the changes that occur in a person affected by MS. it is these changes that lead to brain and spinal cord problems.
Abnormal functioning of certain areas in the MRI scan is also used by doctors to diagnose this disorder among patients.
Another diagnosis method is that of spinal fluid testing. This testing will reveal the active involvement of the immune system around areas of the spinal cord and the brain.
The medical professional puts together these pieces of evidence from the test to diagnose multiple sclerosis. However, there is still a high chance that the doctor may not be able to diagnose this disorder and the patient will have to live with it for years without being diagnosed.
What Is Multiple Sclerosis Treatment?
Physical therapy, Credit: Canva
The treatment of multiple sclerosis starts with reaching out to a neurologist. Eventually, with the help of a nurse, all the issues regarding skin, bladder, bowel, spasticity, and pain problems are discussed in detail. The clinical nurse, along with the neurologist will develop a suitable treatment plan for your requirements. There are certain drugs that are prescribed
The treatment line is designed after an extensive examination of your medical history and your current physical evaluation. This plan is personalized for your particular requirements. There are certain drugs that are prescribed to relieve you of the intensity of your symptoms and stop the progress of this disorder.
In addition to medications, the person will also need to make regular visits to a physical therapist. The physical therapist will guide them on ways to enhance their function and movement while also minimizing the pain. Occupational therapy is very important for patients with MS, primarily because it helps in:
Problems related to maintaining proper balance
Problems related to lack of coordination
Fatigue and pain
The difficulty that a patient experiences in going about with their daily activities like walking, sitting, and standing.
Can a Person Live with MS?
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There is not a significant difference in the lifespan of people who suffer from multiple sclerosis compared to those who do not. In fact, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) people with this disorder can certainly have more or less a normal life course. The only aspect that differs is that patients with MS will have a lifespan that is seven years shorter than those of others.
However, people affected by this disorder are highly likely to experience a reduced quality of life which results from the excessive pain and fatigue that they feel. Some of the changes that MS gives to its patients are physical in nature. These changes directly impact one’s appearance and thus may lead to a negative self-image. Other changes relate to productivity as a limited range of motion and stiffness interfere in their quality of work. However, with the help of a good physician and physical therapist you can take charge of your symptoms to a large extent. You can thus enjoy a better quality of life than those who neglect the treatment of their symptoms.