Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system which can gradually affect a patient’s vision, speech, walking, writing and memory. This condition involves a wearing away of the myelin sheath, the protective covering of the nerves, which causes nerve signals to slow and the nerves themselves to become damaged. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic autoimmune disease that is most commonly diagnosed in women between the ages of 20 and 50.
The specific cause of MS is unknown, although it may be a result of genetic factors. Like other autoimmune diseases, the body mistakes normal tissue as a foreign body and attacks against it. In this case, the brain and spinal cord are affected.
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis can vary depending on which nerves are affected, but common symptoms include:
- Numbness or weakness in the limbs
- Loss of vision
- Double or blurred vision
- Difficulty concentrating
Since symptoms vary and can come and go, diagnosing MS is often difficult and can take months or years from when symptoms begin. There is no specific test for diagnosing MS, so your doctor may focus on ruling out other conditions in order to reach a diagnosis.
Treatment for MS is usually a lifelong process that involves different types of medications depending on the frequency and severity of symptoms. Medications commonly used for treating MS include corticosteroids, interferon, glatiramer and natalizumab. Physical therapy can also help patients manage the side effects of multiple sclerosis.
Since MS is a debilitating disease, it is important for patients to do their best to maintain an active, normal life and keep themselves as healthy as possible, both physically and emotionally. Support from friends and family can also be helpful to living a happy and healthy lifestyle.