Multiple Sclerosis Explained

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Across the world, over 2.5 million people suffer from multiple sclerosis. 400,000 of these people live in the US. Multiple sclerosis is a disease that damages the central nervous system. The CNS transmits messages from the brain all over the body and when MS damages the nerves, these messages cannot get to where they are meant to go.

MS causes the immune system to attack the myelin which acts as an insulator or protector of the nerve fibers. When someone has an MS attack, their myelin is being compromised, and the more often this happens, the more damage is caused to the nerve. This damage seems to be irreversible and means that people are permanently inhibited from certain movements or uses of their body. The disease can cause numbness or tingling, slurred speech and loss of balance, sight impairment, tremors, fatigue, and at worst, paralysis.

These symptoms can be felt for as little as a few hours to as long as forever. In some MS patients, the symptoms can disappear for years at a time, but as the disease progresses, the time between relapses gets shorter and shorter, until the symptoms become permanent.

Women are 3 times more likely to develop MS than men are, and it usually is diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40. Though the disease can alter a person’s life completely, it does not mean that it will end it. Life expectancy with MS is the same as without, though there can be issues caused by the symptoms. It is not clear how the disease develops, or why. Genetics, lifestyle, diet, or exercise habits don’t seem to be conclusive evidence for developing the disease though, with research it is becoming clearer and clearer.

Progression in drugs and new treatments mean that we can prolong the time between relapses, lessen the severity of symptoms, and slow down the progression of the disease.

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