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Multiple sclerosis

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Multiple Sclerosis (also referred to as disseminated sclerosis or encephelomyelitis) is an autoimmune disease wherein the immune system is believed to attack a person's central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), leading to demyelination of neurons. It is a very mysterious disease and one that is still puzzling researchers. .

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is unpredictable and incurable and can be extremely painful. It can occur at any stage of life and is more common in women. The central nervous system disruption causes fifty different symptoms, which are also common among many other diseases. This makes it very hard to establish a diagnosis and many people will suffer from Multiple Sclerosis without even knowing it. There are many medications that aid in the general pain and discomfort and new medications and treatments are in development.

Symptoms

Many of the symptoms of MS are confusing, therefore, it is sometimes hard to get an exact diagnosis. The most common symptoms: fatigue, dizziness, tremor, pain, and cognitive problems are common to many other diseases besides MS. Many patients may have these symptoms for several years and have to see numerous doctors before a definite diagnosis is made. There are over fifty symptoms associated with Multiple Sclerosis! That makes it extremely difficult for doctors, but luckily there are some major signs that can be a definite sign of the disease.

Vision problems such as double vision and optic neuritis are some of the common problems patients suffer from. These are most often very uncomfortable and cause blurred vision, color confusion, and even blindness in one eye. Studies show that fifty five percent of MS sufferers will have an attack of optic neuritis in their lifetime. Dizziness and vertigo are two other main symptoms of MS. Dizziness is the feeling of being lightheaded, and vertigo is the sensation that one's surroundings are spinning. This may even give the patient the feeling of nausea. Since MS is a disease involving the central nervous system, it is common for there to be problems with the muscles. Minor problems like weakness, to more extreme ones such as tremors are common. The problems may even impair walking and everyday activities. Stiffness or spasms in the arms and legs can be not only painful for the person, but quite annoying as well. The arms and legs seem to be a common place for pain. Many MS patients will experience something called "MS hug". It is a tight, painful band around the stomach or torso. A very common symptom of multiple Sclerosis is fatigue. Many times the person will feel excessively tired or worn out, even after getting adequate amounts of sleep. In addition, sensory can be thrown off during MS. Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs may be present, along with a loss of sensation to hot and cold elements.[2]

Causes

Researchers have recorded how myelin degrades real-time in live mice using a new imaging technique called CARS. In this experiment, the myelin degradation was artificially induced with a compound called lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC). Researchers were able to observe an influx of calcium ions as the myelin began to degrade. This insight could promote early detection of conditions such as multiple sclerosis.[1]

Being an unpredictable disease, MS can onset at any time and have relative to extreme affects on a person. It is a disease of the central nervous system, and results in a disruption in communication between the brain and other body parts. The spinal cord is also affected and as a result causes loss of muscle control, vision, balance, and sensation. Medical investigators have come to believe that Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, meaning it, through its immune system, creates a defensive attack against its own tissues. The myelin, or nerve-insulating tissue, is what is under attack during MS[3]The central nervous system is like the command center of the body. It is made up of crucial nerves that act as messengers to the rest of the body. It is here that the myelin really comes into play. The fatty substance insulates the nerves and aids in the travel of the messages. The messages that control the muscle movement cannot function properly as a result of the myelin being under attack. The name for this process of deterioratrion is demyelination. Knowing all this, scientists and doctors are still unable to pinpoint the exact cause of Multiple Sclerosis. Many believe a combination of genetics or the environment which someone was subjected to as a child are major variables in the onset of MS.[4]It will normally begin between the age of twenty and forty, but can be seen at any age. The disease itself is progressive, meaning it worsens with time. The rate at which it worsens can differ from person to person.[5]

Treatment

There are many ways of reducing the pain of MS, but sadly there is no cure. The treatments that doctors administer are designed to return function after an attack, prevent new attacks, and prevent disability. The downside to these treatments is that they may have adverse effects. Many patients turn to other treatments which scientific studies do not support. During an attack, a patient may administer high doses of intravenous corticosteroids, such as methylprednisolone. This procedure is normal for acute relapses. They may help at the time, but it is very rare for these treatments to have a significant impact on the recovery of MS in the long run. The downfall to this type of treatment is impaired memory and osteoporosis. When an attack occurs, one might be treated with plasmapheresis. Other common drugs used are Glatiramer, Natalizumab, and Mitoxantrune. Glatiramer is an injection taken daily to block one's immune system from attacking the myelin. Natalizumab and Mitoxantrune are stronger drugs that can have serious side effects, therefore, they are only prescribed to patients with severe MS.[6] Scientists have done studies showing that treatment with interferons can decrease the chance of a patient developing clinical MS. This is only applicable if the patient is in the earliest period of MS. When the patient chooses alternative methods of treatment, they turn to things like dietary regimens, herbal medicine, and oxygenation. Relaxation methods such as tai chi and yoga also help with the general fatigue felt during Multiple Sclerosis. Not all of these methods, however, have been proven to have any effect on cognitive function or furthering the cure to MS.[7]Some people actually have such mild symptoms that no treatment is necessary. A physical therapist is often recommended to patients who are suffering from muscle and joint pain.

Demographics

Central nervous system

There are many factors that can increase or decrease a persons risk of MS. Scientists and doctors turn to the demographics for more answers when it comes to this. A demographic is "a statistic characterizing human populations or segments broken down by age, race, income, etc."[8] By better understanding the demographics of Multiple Sclerosis doctors are able to help patients more and find better medicines for the disease. Gender is an important part of MS because females are two to three times more likely to get MS than males. No one is certain why this is so, but doctors believe it has to do with the influence of hormones on the immune system. In general, women have a higher chance of developing immune-mediated diseases, such as thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis. Some studies suggest that higher economic classes in Northern Europe are more susceptible than lower classes in tropical areas. Either way, Caucasians have a higher risk of getting Multiple Sclerosis than Blacks or Asians. In addition, family members who are close with MS patients are more susceptible to the disease. Multiple Sclerosis is not a hereditary disease, so for that to happen is very interesting. The risk of the general population is 1 to 1,000, while the risk of those with close family members is 2 to 5.[9] Geography also plays a major role in developing MS. The disease has always been more prevalent in the further Northern and Southern latitudes. This is possibly due to less sunlight, environmental factors, and dietary reasons. Keeping that in mind, it is a bit easier to understand why MS is so prevalent in the state of Washington. No one can be positive, but scientists do their best to speculate, and with further research hope to one day uncover this medical mystery.[10]

References

  • [11] National Institute of Neurological disorders and stroke 10-24-09
  • [12] WebMD 10-24-09
  • [13]About.com 10-24-09
  • [14] Wikipedia 10-24-09
  • [15] MayoClinic 10-25-09
  • [16] Word Reference 10-25-09
  • [17] Spinal Cord Medicine 10-25-09
  • [18] The Geography of Multiple Sclerosis 10-25-09
  • [19] Google Health 10-25-09