Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system begins to attack its protective covering – the myelin sheath which covers the nerve fibres.
This results in communication problems between the brain and the rest of your body.
How does multiple sclerosis occur?
The body’s immune system is made up of structures called the nerve fibres as well as the brain and spinal cord which transmit electrical and chemical impulses from the body to the brain through the nerve endings.
These nerve fibres are sheathed by a protective covering called myelin. The myelin sheath is a fatty-rich protein covering which serves as an insulator to the nerve fibres and has the sole responsibility of allowing electrical impulses to transmit quickly and efficiently along the nerve cells.
For some unknown reason, the immune system begins to attack itself, eating up the myelinated axons in the Central Nervous System, and destroying the myelin in various degrees.
When this protective covering is destroyed, it causes permanent damage to the nerve fibres. Thus severing the smooth transmission of impulses from the Central Nervous System to the brain with a significant physical disability to show for it.
The cause of Multiple Sclerosis is indeed unknown but several factors can contribute to the risk of developing multiple sclerosis and they include:
- Age: The onset of multiple sclerosis is around 20 and 40 years of age. Although individuals outside the age bracket can be affected as well.
- Gender. Research shows that women are more predisposed to multiple Sclerosis than men.
- Family history. Individuals whose relatives have suffered multiple sclerosis stand at a higher risk of developing the disease.
- Infections. Certain species of viruses have been linked to MS, including the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr).
- Race. Whites, especially those of Northern European descent, are at the highest risk of developing MS while those of African or Native American descent and Asians have the lowest risk.
- Climate. Multiple Sclerosis is more prevalent in countries with temperate climates, including Canada, the northern United States, New Zealand, southeastern Australia and Europe.
- Vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D and insufficient exposure to sunlight is also associated with a greater risk of MS.
- Genetics. Research has found a gene on chromosome 6p21 to be associated with multiple sclerosis.
- Obesity. It has been confirmed that there is a relationship between obesity and multiple sclerosis especially in females.
- Certain autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disease, pernicious anaemia, psoriasis, type 1 diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease put its sufferer at a higher risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
- Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs
- Tingling sensation
- Electric-shock sensations
- Partial or total loss of vision,
- Long-lasting double vision
- Blurry vision
- Body weakness
- Slow inaudible speech
- Cognitive difficulties
- Mood disruptions
- Loss of coordination
- Unsteady steps or inability to walk
If multiple sclerosis is not diagnosed on time and appropriate measures are taken to manage the condition, it could result in the following:
Muscle stiffness or spasms
- Severe muscle stiffness, spasms, weakness or paralysis, commonly in the legs
- Problems with bladder, bowel or sexual function
- Cognitive problems, like forgetfulness or difficulties in finding words.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Seizures, but in very rare cases.
Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis
Currently, there is no treatment for Multiple Sclerosis but there are medications and measures that can help manage the condition and also reduce the symptoms.
This approach solely depends on the specific symptom and difficulties the individual is presented with.
However, if you do experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, do not hesitate to see a doctor for a thorough examination and diagnosis.