Multiple Sclerosis Basics

Multiple Sclerosis, also commonly known as MS, is a chronic, long-lasting and usually progressive disease affecting the central nervous system. MS progresses by cause sing continued damage to sheaths of nerve cells in the spinal cord, brain and optic nerves.

In MS, immune cells attack myelin. Myelin is a fatty-type substance that protects and insulates nerve fibers and nerve sheaths. Damage to myelin results in the growth of scar tissue. The scar tissue and other damage to the nerve sheath and nerve fiber disrupt and sometimes distort nerve impulses traveling back and forth between the brain and spinal cord. This distortion and disruption can produce many different symptoms across the entire body, which comprise the known effects of MS.

Resulting symptoms associated with MS include, but are not limited to:

• poor muscular coordination
• blurred vision
• difficulty with speech
• compromise basic bodily functions

There are 4 known types of MS, called “courses.”

There are 4 Courses of MS:

Relapsing Remitting

The most common course of MS is Relapsing Remitting MS, occurring in an approximate 90% of MS patients. Patients with this course of MS typically experience symptoms of the disease in their 20s; attacks are periodic and then the disease goes into remission. Most patients with Relapsing Remitting MS will ultimately progress into a secondary progressive phase of the disease.

Primary Progressive

For MS patients with Primary Progressive MS, their symptoms generally see an increase (get worse) after being diagnosed with the disease. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 10 patients with MS are diagnosed with the primary progressive course of MS.

Secondary Progressive

Most MS patients develop Secondary Progressive MS after having Relapsing Remitting MS. In this course of MS, symptoms and attacks begin to steadily occur without remission. The time frame associated with Secondary Progressive MS is between 10 and 20 years after the patient is diagnosed with the Relapsing Remitting course of the disease.

Progressive Relapsing

Progressive Relapsing is the least common form of MS. In this course, symptoms do not abate and become progressive between each attack or relapse. Progressive Relapsing is sometimes seen as a more acute course of Primary Progressive MS. Studies suggest that only 5% of MS patients have this course of the disease.

How is MS Treated

There is no known cure for Multiple Sclerosis. Treatments for MS usually focus on helping a patient quickly recover from attacks or relapses and slowing down the progression of the disease while managing other symptoms consequent to the disease.

The cause of MS has not been discovered. There is, therefore, no known cure for the disease to date.

MS is not known to be hereditary; however, having an immediate relative with MS has shown to pose as a significant risk factor for disease development.

It is also widely believed by medical scientists that there are unknown environmental variables that trigger MS in people who have an inherent genetic predisposition to develop the disease.

As an example, the incidence of MS is significantly lower near the Equator. The underlying theory is Vitamin D plays an important role in the occurrence of MS. The populations residing near the earth’s equator are exposed to significant amounts of sun-produced natural vitamin D. Vitamin D is thought to bolster the immune system functions and may fortify the immune system against immune mediated diseases such as MS.

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