Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is actually a neurological disease that is caused by a central nervous system inflammatory process. With the onset of this disease, the body’s neurons, which are nervous cells, become dysfunctional due to myelin, a surrounding substance of neurons, being destroyed. The main function of myelin is to transmit information between the body’s neurons. This is how the nervous system is properly controlled. If these cells become damaged, the enclosed tissue becomes negatively affected.
Scientific research has shown that multiple sclerosis is a disease found in approximately two million individuals across the world. Statistics indicate that over 350,000 multiple sclerosis cases have been discovered in the US. Interestingly, this debilitating disease affects young people more than any other societal group. Even though multiple sclerosis can still be found in elderly patients, the highest incidents of this neurological disorder occur in patients between the ages of 20-40. Multiple sclerosis is also gender biased as it occurs in mostly women. As a matter of fact, men rarely suffer from the disease.
Medical experts are unclear as to the exact causes of multiple sclerosis. Most scientists hold to the theory that environmental and genetic factors contribute to multiple sclerosis development, specifically that a person’s genetic predisposition is triggered by the environmental factors they are exposed to. Some of the major environmental factors include lack of sleep, stress, and a warm climate. Of course, this is simply a theory, which is why some experts entertain the idea that viral infections can lead to multiple sclerosis onset. However, it has been proven that the “multiple sclerosis gene” can be handed down a familial line.
Physical and Neuropsychological Symptoms
Unfortunately, multiple sclerosis affects almost every functioning level of the human body, which creates a wide symptom range in MS patients. Common multiple sclerosis physical signs include muscle pain, numbness, inflammation, weakness, poor mobility, overwhelming fatigue, poor balance, loss of dexterity, lack of coordination, and decreased vision.
The neuropsychological symptoms of MS patients are poor mental performance, lack of concentration, compromised judgment, and loss of short-term memory. Mania, depression, and dementia can also occur in rare cases.
Physicians will diagnose multiple sclerosis through a variety of detailed examinations of both the physical and neuropsychological type in addition to laboratory tests and certain medical procedures. The most common diagnostic methods include procedures that determine possible myelin damage, lumbar punctures, and MRI scans.
Medical treatments for multiple sclerosis are specialized and entirely determined on the individuals specific range of symptoms. Many treatments encompass using beta interferon, corticosteroids, and nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medication. The above listed medications help to alleviate a patient’s physical symptoms as well as prevent the severity of recurrence. If multiple sclerosis has progressed to the point where it has affected the body’s cognitive functions, a physician may prescribe central nervous system, or CNS, stimulants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. However, doctors have not found a cure for multiple sclerosis yet.
Doctors also use therapy without the use of medications to help MS patients rebound from their physical symptoms. Because many of this disease’s symptoms involve the body’s musculoskeletal system, exercise therapy has been found to have a positive effect on lessening weakness, numbness, and muscle pain.