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An Overview of Multiple Sclerosis

            Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating and mysterious disease that affects people from all walks of life. Affecting more than 2.9 million people worldwide, it is one of the most common diseases of the nervous system. The number of people afflicted by it is ever growing. It has no cure, and no proven cause. Doctors can only speculate what causes it and why it affects everyone differently. Not only does this disease affect those afflicted by it, but their families as well, changing lives forever. Jean-Martin Charcot first identified Multiple Sclerosis in 1868. The name Multiple Sclerosis literally means "scar tissue in multiple areas" namely in the area between the spinal column in the brain and the brain itself. Though he did not know what caused it, Charcot was able to write down a full description of the disease. He became increasingly frustrated with the fact that this disease was unresponsive to any treatment he tried. In the later decades of the 19th century it became clearer that the disease was much more common in women than in men, something that still baffles doctors. At this point doctors were able to discern that it was not directly inherited, and that it affects different people in different ways. The only way the Multiple Sclerosis could be diagnosed was examining the spinal fluid of a patient after a painful and dangerous spinal tap.
             Today, the disease is much the same as it was in the past. Since the first diagnosis of MS with the use of an MRI in the 1980's it has become slightly easier to diagnose the disease. However, there is still little known about what causes it. It was not until the 1990's that there were any treatments for Multiple Sclerosis. Today there are many treatments available, but none that fix the damage. Unlike in Charcot's, time it is now understood how the disease works and how it progresses. Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder, meaning it is a disease that causes the immune system to mistakenly attack and destroy healthy body tissue.

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