A demyelinating disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged
Multiple sclerosis is a disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. The myelin or protective cover of the nerves is affected, resulting in communication problems between brain and the rest of the body. Multiple sclerosis may result in permanent nerve damage affecting the movement of the aggrieved.
In the severest condition, the patients of multiple sclerosis cannot walk, and need others’ support for movement. In some, there may be long period of remission with no visible symptoms at all. Though there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, focused and patient-specific treatments can help in reducing the severity of the disease, and help to manage the symptoms effectively.
The exact causes for multiple sclerosis are not known. However, multiple sclerosis is considered to result due to attack by the body’s auto-immune system. In some, the body’s immune system destroys myelin, which forms as a coating for nerve fibers of the brain and spinal cord. Once the myelin coating is damaged the nerves are exposed and messages travelling through them are slowed or blocked. Genetics and environmental factors cannot be ruled out as potential causes for the occurrence of multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis is characterized by symptoms that strongly differ from person to person. In general, multiple sclerosis is characterized by numbness or weakness, partial or complete loss of vision, tingling in parts of the body, electric shock sensations along the neck, slurred speech, dizziness, fatigue, gait and tremors, bladder and bowel problems.
TESTS & DIAGNOSIS
Tests advised for multiple sclerosis are based on differential diagnosis process. Blood tests check the biomarkers associated with multiple sclerosis. Lumbar puncture or spinal tap removes fluid from the spinal canal and checks it for any infections. MRI checks for the presence of lesions in the brain and spinal cord. Evoked potential test records the electrical signals produced by the nervous system.
Multiple sclerosis can only be treated, and never be cured. The effective treatment of multiple sclerosis includes drugs and plasma exchange (plasmapheresis). In addition to drugs, the doctors also advise on physical therapy, muscle relaxants and medications to reduce fatigue.
Physical therapy includes, stretching and strengthening exercises to perform daily tasks. Muscle relaxants help to control muscle stiffness or spasms, especially in the legs. Other medications may be advised to treat depression, pain, sexual dysfunction, and bladder or bowel control problems as seen in patients of multiple sclerosis.