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Multiple Sclerosis

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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease, where the nerve cell protective covers are impaired; this causes a decline in spinal cord and brain function. It is not inherited, but having immediate family members suffering from it, increases the danger. Diagnosing MS requires numerous tests that include:

  • Blood test to rule out other diseases with similar signs;
  • Evoked Potentials (EP) test to measure the brain electrical activity through stimulating nerve pathways; there are three types of EP tests: Brainstem Auditory Evoked Potentials (BAEP), Sensory Evoked Potentials (SEP), and Visual Evoked Potentials (VEP);
  • MRI scan to identify active and inactive lesions in the spinal cord and brain;
  • Spinal tap to eliminate contagious diseases, and discover abnormalities in the spinal fluid.

Typical symptoms of MS are:

  • Vision problems: Inflammation of the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, causes vision issues. The patient can experience pain and discomfort when looking up or to the side. These issues can remain unnoticed for a while, as clear vision deterioration happens slowly.
  • Numbness and tingling: Since MS attacks the brain and the spinal cord, which send signals to all body parts, it may cause sending contradictory signs or even not sending any signs, which leads to numbness, and in severe cases, a decrease in brain capacity. Common places where numbing occurs are the arms, face, fingers, and legs.
  • Spasms and pain: Muscle spasms, muscle stiffness, and constant pain are typical signs of MS. Having stiff joints and muscles accompanied with uncontrollable, agonizing sudden movements of the extremities. Severe cases may lead to paralysis.
  • Fatigue and weakness: 80% of MS patients suffer from unidentified fatigue and weakness. Constant fatigue is due to nerve decay in the spinal cord; it occurs unexpectedly and lingers for weeks before getting better.
  • Balance and dizziness issues: People suffering from MS feel dizziness, lightheadedness, and vertigo; all of these limit their mobility. This typically happens while standing up.

Since there is no cure until now, treatment concentrates on delaying the disease progression, making recovery from attacks faster, and controlling the signs. Medication and treatment methods include:

  • Corticosteroids, which are used to reduce nerve swelling. Some side effects may occur, including high blood pressure, insomnia, oedema*, and mood swings.
  • Plasmapheresis, where plasma is extracted and severed from the blood cells, then the cells are combined with albumin** and returned to the body. This type of treatment is carried out when the symptoms are new, strong, and are not affected by steroids.
  • Fatigue reduction medicine.
  • Muscle relaxants, which can help relieve muscle stiffness and spasms.
  • Physical therapy, where patients will be able to learn strengthening and stretching exercises, as well as receive instructions on how to use apparatuses to carry out daily chores.

People must know their family history and consult a doctor once they find out they suffer from these symptoms. An earlier diagnosis provides a better chance of controlling its effects and postponing its progression.

Glossary

*Oedema is the excess fluid retained in the body.
**Albumin is a protein solution.

References

healthline.com
mayoclinic.org

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