Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sslerosis is an autoimmune condition of the nervous system and the brain. An autoimmune disorder means that the body’s innate ability to attack potentially harmful foreign bodies backfires. When this happens, the immune cells that should target the pathogens attach normal and healthy cells instead. Multiple sclerosis is such a condition in which the nerve endings are damaged due to the loss or destruction of the myelin sheath, a protective covering. The sensitivity and effective transmitting capability of the nerves are then compromised.

Multiple sclerosis is characterized by scattered plaques of demyelination throughout the white matter of the central nervous system.

Multiple sclerosis comes from the hardened plaques of scar tissue located at multiple sites throughout the Central Nervous System. The multiple scars that give the disease its name are the end result of the patchy breakdown of the insulating myelin cover that surrounds nerves. Nerve fibers in the Central Nervous System are covered with a myelin sheath which provides an insulating function similar to that of the insulation around electrical wires. This insulation allows nerve conduction to proceed smoothly and at a rapid rate. Plaques or patches of inflammation damage the myelin around the nerve and disrupt the transmission of messages that communicate the desired action from the brain through the spinal cord to various parts of the body. For example, plaques that disrupt nerve fibers in the brain going to the legs could affect the ability to walk. Patients with multiple sclerosis often have a clinical history of episodes of neurologic symptoms that are related to multiple patches of inflammation in the spinal cord, brain, and optic nerves. Although the symptoms may suggest that one plaque has developed, there probably is more than one, and possibly many. More surprisingly, some plaques may develop and heal without causing any symptoms.

Under the microscope, the lesions or plaques are seen as areas in which there is a preponderance of thickly myelinated fibers, the white matter of the brain, so called because it appears pale due to the presence of myelin, compared to the gray matter in which there is little myelin, compared to the gray matter in which there is little myelin. The area of plaque shows disruption of the myelin and some damage or loss of axons as well. There is an inflammatory reaction in these plaques, with some repair fibers in older plaques and some scarring in very old plaques. More episodes of demyelination and more plaques may appear as years pass. Myelin can be repaired, allowing function to be restored, but conduction may be slower in these repaired fibers. Although repair can occur and may often be almost complete, the repeated myelin breakdown, incomplete repair, and accumulation of scarring lead to some progression of symptoms and signs of the disease after many years in most people with multiple sclerosis.

Once the disease was described and has a name, it was possible for physicians everywhere to recognize it. It became clear that multiple sclerosis was not uncommon, but was in fact the most common serious neurological disease in young adults. It followed a number of different patterns and courses, sometimes appearing more than once in the same family, and was more common in certain parts of the world and in white people.

Any person with a family history of multiple sclerosis should be aware that there is likelihood for him or her to acquire the disease. Studies have also determined that the prevalence of multiple sclerosis varies depending on geographical location. Northern Europeans, North Americans, and Australians have high incidences of this disease, as compared to other regions. The National Institutes of Health also stated that women are at higher risk of getting multiple sclerosis, and this may be diagnoses between the ages of 20 to 40 years old.

We do not know why one person has a progressive course of symptoms and problems, while another has mild disease that produces little disability over time. Multiple sclerosis can have different patterns in people in the same family, and what pattern a person has seems to have nothing to do with anything we can measure in the body, life activities, or whatever steps are taken to manage the disease.

However, there are many symptoms that should be warning signs of the severity of multiple sclerosis. Among them are decrease in attention span, lack of concentration, less coordinated movements, failing memory, and bouts of depression. His or her movements may become slower than usual, and may have uncontrollable muscle spasms, especially in the lower limbs. A patient with multiple sclerosis may have problems with speech, experiences dizziness, and double vision. With regards to urinary health, a person with multiple sclerosis often feels the need to urinate, and may have incontinence or urine leakage.

What are the tests the medical professionals usually perform to determine the occurrence or existence of multiple sclerosis in the nervous system? If a person is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, what kind of treatment is available for him or her? Neurological exams are done to check nerve sensitivity, reflex responses, as well assess the sense of hearing, vision, and others. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan can be done to locate the damaged nerves, if any.

To treat this condition, physical therapy accompanied by medication is usually done. Antidepressants, cholinergic drugs, and steroids are among those prescribed. Aside from those, speech therapy may be needed to regain the patient’s ability to communicate. Group therapy should also be done so a patient can deal with the mood changes and depression associated with multiple sclerosis. To recover faster the patient adapts exercise programs and well-balanced diets.

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