Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a degenerative, autoimmune disorder, which means that the body attacks itself rather than the disease. MS breaks down the myelin sheath that covers the nerves, which inhibits the brain's ability to transmit signals to the CNS and the rest of the body. Although the disease isn't hereditary, it's more likely to occur when there's a family history of it and it's three times for prevalent in women than men.
It's more prevalent in areas more distant from the equator and it sometimes appears in clusters. Approximately 2.5 million people throughout the world suffer from MS and approximately 200 new cases are diagnosed each year. Currently, no cure exists: Those with the disease can only manage their symptoms and side effects. However, smoking seems linked to the development of the disease and a more rapid progression of side effects.
Since MS is a neurological disorder, it primarily attacks the central nervous system, or CNS, and gradually it will adversely affect the entire body. Since the body's immune system is attacking its healthy cells, the body cannot fight the intrusive disease as it would normally attack a disease. Side effects of the disease are divided into primary and secondary categories, although primary side effects can occur as secondary side effects when the onset is subsequent to the diagnosis of the disease. Infrequently, the side effects of MS can mimic those of other diseases, such as:
Many of the primary side effects include:
More than half of those with MS reported chronic pain as a side effect. Types of pain include:
Spasmodic pain often occurs at night in the legs, and the back pain may be associated with the poor posture that's a result of the musculoskeletal degenerative effect of MS. The types of pain most frequently associated with MS include:
Mental fog, confusion,and forgetfulness can combine with vertigo, tremors, and seizures to create a living nightmare for anyone who suffers from MS. Not all of those who have the disease will have all of the side effects, but a lack of cognition seems to be one of the most commonly occurring.
Those who have MS often experience an emotional roller coaster that can include anxiety, depression, irritability, and pain. Since MS adversely affects their normal brain function, they may be completely unaware of their emotional issues and even disbelieve that they are experiencing them.
Since MS is an autoimmune disease, it attacks the immune system. Those who have the disease are at an increased risk of developing diseases such as pneumonia, inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, other autoimmune diseases such as Grave's disease or Hashimoto's thyroiditis as well as nutritional deficiencies.
Although women with MS are more at risk than men with MS for the development of cardiovascular disease, both men and women who have MS have an increased propensity for a heart attack or stroke.
Many people with MS tend to develop osteoporosis, but whether this is endemic to the disease or it's due to the lack of exercise that often accompanies MS isn't yet clear. However nutritional deficiencies that develop due to MS can cause brittle bones and this is exacerbated by the lack of exercise.
Lack of communication between the brain and the CNS can contribute to problems with equilibrium for those who have MS. This also contributes to a lack of coordination, which may adversely affect balance.
Nerve damage and lack of communication between the brain and the CNS can adversely impact hand-eye coordination, which can be exacerbated by problems with equilibrium. It also results in the “pins and needles” feeling of paresthesia in the extremities.
Those who have MS may be relatively inactive, so their muscle tone may decline, exacerbated by a lack of balance and coordination. Muscles may weaken to the point that a wheelchair is necessary for mobility.
Due to the communication issues between the brain and the rest of the body, those who develop MS may develop bladder control issues. This often leads to a urinary tract infection and various digestive issues.
In addition to urinary incontinence, MS often causes loss of bowel control. Both constipation and diarrhea can occur, but both can be controlled somewhat through the use of medication, adequate hydration, and physical activity.
The inability to breathe is frequently a side effect of MS. Muscle atrophy and nerve damage can cause pain when breathing, as well as inflammation and fatigue. Poor posture can compress the thoracic cavity so that the diaphragm cannot open fully, so adequate breathing becomes difficult.
Although it's rare, some individuals will become deaf as a side effect of MS. This is usually a result of brainstem damage. Sometimes, the problem may resolve on its own, but more often, the damage causes permanent deafness.
Those who have MS may find that they have trouble with enunciation. Slurred speech, hoarseness, and lack of volume control are also common side effects of MS.
Since MS impairs the communication between the brain and the CNS, those who have MS may have difficulty maintaining sexual arousal. MS doesn't impair fertility, but it increases spasticity and causes extreme fatigue, so those with MS may lack the energy for sexual activity.
Children who are obese have an increased propensity to develop MS. Since MS causes inflammation, and obesity usually encourages inactivity, those who become obese after developing MS are more likely to have other, more severe side effects. Those who have MS can sometimes become obese due to inactivity and emotional issues such as emotional eating.
One of the first symptoms of MS is visual distortion. Those who are in the first stages of the disease may have eye pain, double vision, blurred vision, and lack of contrast between color depths. This can seriously inhibit their ability to drive and possibly jeopardize their independence, which can contribute further to emotional issues.
When the muscles used for swallowing become weak, individuals with MS may experience the inability to properly swallow their food. This can result in food or fluid being inhaled, ending up in the lungs, and causing pneumonia.