March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive, lifelong illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord when the body’s own immune cells attack the layer of tissue, called myelin, that surrounds and protects the nerves and normally protects nerve cells. In MS, myelin becomes damaged or inflamed, interrupts nerve signals and causes symptoms. People can have only one mild symptom, very few symptoms or many symptoms with severe disability. MS is more common in women than men and in temperate climates more than the tropics.
What Causes MS?
The cause is unknown, but MS is thought to be an autoimmune illness, meaning the body’s own immune system attacks itself. In MS, it attacks the covering of the myelin.
Symptoms can come and go in episodes or attacks and vary depending on whether the brain or spinal cord is affected and which areas are involved. Symptoms of brain involvement may include:
- Sudden vision loss or blurry vision;
- Slurred speech;
- Muscle weakness;
- Trouble walking; and
- Loss of bladder control.
There is no specific test that proves the diagnosis of MS. The health care provider will suggest seeing a neurologist (specialist in nervous system diseases). Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), spinal tap and visual-evoked response may be done. MS cannot be cured, but many treatments are available to control the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, getting enough rest and exercise and keeping to a normal weight are important.
For more information about multiple sclerosis, read here.