The month of March has been designated Multiple Sclerosis Education & Awareness Month. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects nearly 1 million Americans and 2.5 million people worldwide. Its causes are unknown.
Overview of Multiple Sclerosis
MS is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system, resulting in damage to both nerve fibers and the fatty substance that coats and insulates them (myelin). The disease can be rather unpredictable, but a few different types, or courses, of MS have been described.
The most common course is relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). 90% of patients have RRMS at the time of diagnosis, which involves alternating periods of experiencing neurological symptoms followed by symptom-free periods. If the symptoms continue to worsen until there is no clear period of remission, the course of the disease is now considered secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS). If, however, there are no early relapses or remissions at all, this is called primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS).
Symptoms, & Diagnosis
Symptoms of MS can vary greatly. However, some of the most common ones are:
- Impaired coordination
- Muscle stiffness or spasms
- Bladder problems
- Numbness or tingling
- Vision problems
- Impaired short-term memory and concentration
Diagnosis of MS is based on the history of symptoms and a neurological examination. This often involves an MRI scan, which can reveal plaques or scars. A cerebrospinal fluid evaluation (via spinal tap) may also be used, along with evoked potential studies that examine the conduction of electrical impulses along nerve pathways in the body. Blood tests are used to rule out other possible conditions.
MS is treated with a variety of medications, which fall into the three categories: abortive therapies, disease-modifying therapies (DMTs), and symptomatic therapies. Abortive therapies are used to shorten the duration and severity of symptom exacerbations, which is typically accomplished using glucocorticoids. DMTs are used as long-term treatments to slow the progression of the disease. Lastly, medications can also be taken to alleviate some of the symptoms of MS, such as muscle weakness and fatigue. Physical therapy can also help with symptom management.
If you have any questions about MS, please call the clinic at (901) 306-5433 to schedule an appointment. As always, stay healthy and stay safe!
–The Wellness & Stress Clinic Team