Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that affects millions of people worldwide. This condition is long-lasting, and those who have it generally deal with its symptoms and effects their whole lives. While there is no cure for the condition, there are many different medications and rehabilitation methods that are effective at managing the disease.
As the number of people who live with this disease in the Middle East continues to rise, increasing awareness about this condition is essential. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with MS, you may feel confused and overwhelmed.
There are many different types and stages of multiple sclerosis, and you can discuss these in detail with your doctor. However, here are the few main things you should know about this disease:
Multiple sclerosis is a condition that affects the body’s nervous system, mainly the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord. It all starts when the body’s immune system begins to attack itself, specifically the myelin found on nerve fibres. These nerves become exposed and, as a result, start to get damaged.
The damage to the nerve fibres causes the body to have trouble sending signals from the brain to the extremities. The severity of the impact of the disease is different from one person to the next. Some people find that they can easily manage their symptoms, while others need lots of extra support.
The causes of this condition are unknown, but its symptoms include difficulty with walking or balancing, trouble with speech or swallowing, foot drop, muscle spasms, and general fatigue. Those who have this condition tend to experience early signs between the ages of 20 and 40. Their symptoms often come on lightly and may disappear and get better, only to come back again later.
Part of what makes diagnosis for multiple sclerosis so difficult is the fact that doctors can only determine its presence by looking at its symptoms. If there isn’t any other reason for those symptoms, then MS is the likely culprit. Also, because many people experience these symptoms at a different intensities and frequencies, diagnosis might take longer for some people.
To diagnose this condition, doctors look for damage along different areas of the central nervous system. To better understand and visualise the state of these areas, doctors can perform a variety of tests, including MRIs, spinal taps, and blood tests.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis
Patients progress through the stages of multiple sclerosis differently. Additionally, different risk factors trigger the onset of these symptoms in different patients. Aside from those differences, there are, in general, four types of MS:
- Relapsing-remitting MS: People with this kind of MS suffer from relapses in their symptoms. Symptom flare-ups can last for days or weeks at a time. After a flare-up, symptoms subside slightly but remain prominent.
- Primary-progressive MS: In this type of MS, the patients symptoms get worse gradually over time. No flare-ups or specific episodes occur in which they are worse, but rather, it happens very slowly and in small increments.
- Secondary-progressive MS: With secondary-progressive MS, the patient initially has relapsing-remitting MS. Then these episodes cease to return, and instead, their condition just starts to get worse steadily. There are no more sudden onsets of symptoms once they start to slowly get worse.
Progressive-relapsing MS: The least common form of MS is progressive-relapsing MS. This type is a combination of the others. Patients have both sudden flares of symptoms that don’t recover along with the constant general decline of their health.
Regardless of the type of MS one has, it is important to take note of how symptoms are progressing or declining over time. These observations can help doctors identify what specific kind of MS the patient has. They can also aid in determining the best treatment options for the patient.
Living with MS
Many people think that living with such a condition requires the patient to spend their life at home for the rest of their days. However, that is not always the case.
The disease course of a case determines what kind of tools are appropriate to allow patients to live their life to the fullest. Many people find they can use a mobility aid to support their ability to move around. Others, however, require continuous rehabilitation services, such as speech and vision therapy.
Aside from using physical and therapeutic tools to battle MS, taking care of mental health and getting enough exercise can also aid in managing symptoms. Managing stress and fatigue is just as important as using a walker or taking medications.
Multiple sclerosis is difficult to live with, but living a full life is possible despite it. With the right tools and support, you can live with MS without letting it define you.