ARTICLES / Multiple Sclerosis
/ Multiple Sclerosis: Understanding and ... /
Sandra Ray, Staff Writer
Mulltiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most
baffling and debilitating neurological diseases.
About 500,000 people in the United States are
afflicted with it. Worldwide there are more than
2.5 million persons who live with MS each day.
MS strikes young people between the ages of 18
and 35, and more women are affected than men. MS
is a form of an autoimmune disease, meaning that
the body begins to attack itself over a period
The causes of MS are a mystery to researchers,
with various theories being studied. It attacks
the central nervous system (CNS) with damage to
the method that nerves use to communicate with
others. The damage is intermittent and may not
be evident at all times, leading to some
confusion in the symptoms and the correct
diagnosis of those symptoms.
Myelin is a fatty covering or coating to the
nerves and serves to help nerve impulses travel
from one area of the body to another. For
example, these impulses may tell your brain that
the stove you just touched is hot. In MS, the
myelin breaks down either entirely or partially
around patches of nerves in a process known as
demyelination. Since various parts of the body
can be affected, there are a variety of symptoms
that can occur either gradually over time or
Nature or Nurture:
While there is a fairly clear genetic link in
MS, itís not time to run out for genetic
testing. MS is more common in first or second
generation family members, such as siblings or
mother/daughters; however, having these genes
may never lead to an active case of MS. Most
researchers believe that an environmental agent
must also be present or even a viral infection
in the patientís past somehow activated the
disease in the body. No specific viruses have
been pinpointed, but there are several under
current study such as flu, measles, and herpes.
Symptoms of MS:
There are so many symptoms, it could take up
quite a bit of space to describe them.
Physicians categorize the symptoms by the area
of the body that is affected by MS. Listed below
are the most common categories of symptoms that
may appear with MS patients. Keep in mind,
however, that these symptoms can mimic other
diseases; and just because one or more symptoms
are present does not mean that a person has MS.
Multiple tests should be performed by not only
the patientís general physician, but by a team
of specialists who work closely with MS patients
on a regular basis.
Vision Ė one of the earliest symptoms that may
appear are visual effects. Some patients report
blurred vision in one or more eyes. Sudden
blindness may also occur. Ocular neuritis can be
treated and may occur without reference to MS;
it may also lead to recurring vision issues in
patients who may later develop MS.
Movement Ė since nerves throughout the body may
be affected, movement is a common impairment.
Patients with movement issues may report loss of
muscle strength or lessening precision on
movements. The patient may have trouble holding
on to items or difficulty making precise
movements such as buttoning a shirt. Balance and
coordination problems can also be present.