Multiple Sclerosis is a serious disease of the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord. These organs are responsible for the movements and function of the body. MS is thought to be an autoimmune illness, where the body mistakes the brain and spinal cord as foreign tissue and tries to get rid of it, resulting in inflammatory damage. The precise location this disease attacks has not yet been identified, but it appears to be a constituent of myelin that surrounds the nerves. Myelin is a soft, white, fatty substance that forms a protective sheath for the nerves. In multiple sclerosis the normal coating of myelin breaks down and can slow down or even block the transmission of signals to and from the central nervous system to the rest of the body. MS can impair vital functions such as vision, coordination or strength.
There are approximately 300,000 Americans diagnosed with MS. Most diagnosed will experience relapses in which the number of symptoms is increased. The main patterns which MS takes are: relapsing/remitting; chronic progressive; secondary progressive; and benign.
There are three different types of multiple sclerosis. The first and mildest is "relapsing-remitting- (R/R). Patients have flares lasting days to months and then seem to recover for a period of time, sometimes lasting for months or for even many years. "Secondary-progressive- (S/P) is where patients have progressive deficits that develop in between identifiable flares. "Primary progressive- (PP) affects 10% of people with MS. This is the most serious type, and patients are without remission.
Signs and symptoms.
Many other diseases produce similar symptoms to that of MS. Initially the signs of MS are genuinely: difficulty in walking; abnormal sensations such as numbness or " pins and needles-; pain and loss of vision due to optic neuritis. Some other less common symptoms may include: tremor; incoordination; slurred speech; sudden onset of paralysis, similar to a stroke; and a decrease in the ability think, reason, and remember.