Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a severe, chronic neurological disease that attacks the central nervous system. It is caused by the immune system attacking and damaging the myelin sheath, which is the protective covering that surrounds and protects nerve fibers. There is no cure for MS, but there are treatments available that can help manage the symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with MS, it is essential to understand the following seven things about the condition:
1) MS Is Not Contagious and Cannot Be Passed from Person to Person
Multiple Sclerosis is thought to be an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. It is not known what causes the body to do this, but it is not contagious and cannot be passed from person to person. However, the disease can run in families, so there may be a genetic predisposition to developing MS.
2) MS Affects Women More Than Men
About two-thirds of people with MS are women. It is also more common in people of northern European descent. MS usually begins in young adulthood, between 20 and 40. However, it can also occur in children and older adults. Symptoms of MS can vary widely from person to person and can range from mild to severe. The most common symptom is fatigue, which can be debilitating. Other symptoms include muscle weakness, numbness and tingling, vision problems, bladder and bowel problems, and changes in mood and cognition.
3) Associated with Flareups
Some people with MS may experience flare-ups or periods when their symptoms worsen. These flare-ups can be caused by various things, including stress, infection, heat, and lack of sleep. It is important to get plenty of rest during a flare-up and avoid any triggers that may make the symptoms worse. After some time, the symptoms of MS may go into remission, or they may become less severe. However, the disease is still present and can flare up again. There is no predicting when or how often a flare-up may occur.
4) Symptoms Present Differently in Different People
MS is a very unpredictable disease, and its symptoms can present differently in different people. For some people, the symptoms may be mild and only occur periodically. For others, the symptoms may be more severe and constant. The course of the disease also varies from person to person. Some people may have a relapsing-remitting form of MS, which means that they have periods when their symptoms get better and then worsen again. Others may have a progressive form of MS, which means that their symptoms gradually worsen over time.
5) Cases of Relapse and Remission are Common
The relapsing-remitting form of MS is the most common, and about 85% of people with MS are diagnosed with this type. This means they have periods (called relapses or exacerbations) when their symptoms worsen, followed by periods of remission when their symptoms improve or go away completely. The length and severity of each relapse vary from person to person. Some people may only have a few relapses throughout their disease, while others may have them more frequently.
During a relapse, new symptoms may appear, or old symptoms may worsen. A relapse can last for days, weeks, or even months. After the relapse is over, the symptoms may improve wholly or partially. The symptoms may never go away entirely for some people and may continue to worsen over time.
6) It Can Be Hard to Diagnose MS
MS can be a complex disease to diagnose because its symptoms can mimic other conditions. No one test can definitively diagnose MS. Doctors will often use a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests to rule out other possibilities and diagnose.
Diagnostic tests for MS may include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cerebrospinal fluid analysis, and evoked potentials. An MRI can show lesions on the brain that are characteristic of MS. Cerebrospinal fluid analysis can reveal abnormal proteins associated with MS. Evoked potentials test can show changes in the brainwaves that may be caused by damage to the nerves from MS.
7) There is No One Treatment for MS
No one treatment works for everyone with MS. The best approach to treatment depends on the individual, the severity of their disease, and their symptoms. Some people may only require symptom management, while others may need more aggressive treatment.