What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Our nervous systems are in charge of keeping our motor and sensory systems functioning normally so that we can walk, talk, smell, and sense the world around us.
There are hundreds of things which disease can affect in the human body, and the nervous system is one of them.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the nervous system which slows or blocks signals from the brain to the rest of the body.
A material called the myelin sheath normally protects nerve cells. Multiple sclerosis causes the immune system to attack the myelin sheath, which in turn can damage the nerves beneath.
This disease ranges in severity, and usually follows a progression of worsening symptoms. For some people, symptoms remain mild for many years. Those with severe cases may lose the ability to write, walk, or speak.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis:
- Muscle weakness
- Trouble with vision
- Memory and cognition issues
- Trouble with coordination
- Sensations of numbness throughout the body
- Muscle spasms
Most people experience relapsing symptoms, which means that symptoms appear for a period of time before improving or going away entirely. Relapsing-remitting MS is followed by periods of remission which can last for months at a time.
Over time, relapsing symptoms give way to secondary-progressive MS, which is a more steady series of symptoms which may or may not have periods of remission. The worsening symptoms usually involve motor skills, especially walking and movement.
Primary-progressive MS occurs when symptoms continue without remission.
What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?
The exact cause of multiple sclerosis is not yet known, although it is largely considered an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system attacks healthy cells.
Women are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis than men. Symptoms usually begin between the ages of 20 and 40. It’s generally believed that a combination of genetics and environmental factors leads to a person developing MS.
Can MS be Treated?
There is no cure for multiple sclerosis yet, but there are many ways to manage the disease progression.
Medications may be prescribed to reduce the severity or frequency of symptoms for all but primary-progression MS. As of today, no treatments have proven to slow the progression of primary-progression MS.
Rehabilitation strategies focus on maintaining a person’s ability to function both at home and at work. These strategies may also work on energy levels, speech, and memory.
Emotional health is another important aspect of managing MS. Many people with MS may experience depression or anxiety.
Any treatment plan for MS will include one or all of the above techniques. While no cure is available yet, new therapies are continually being explored and researched.
Tips for Managing Multiple Sclerosis
Living with MS can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. You can fight back by practicing these tips which promote a healthy lifestyle.
- Exercise. Exercise is good for all aspects of your health, and can be beneficial towards managing fatigue levels and other symptoms from MS.
- Reduce stress. Stress can make MS symptoms worse. Adapting and asking for help when you need it and practicing relaxation techniques can help manage your stress levels.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking is damaging to your overall health whether you have MS or not. Continuing to smoke if you have MS can accelerate or increase the damage to your brain.
- Sleep! While this can be difficult for those with muscle spasms during the night, it’s said that sleep is the best medicine. Establish a sleeping routine and stick with it.
- Reconsider your diet. There is no proven link between diet and MS, but some people find an anti-inflammatory diet beneficial for their symptoms. Anti-inflammatory diets include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy oils such as omega-3 and omega-6.