Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – The Basics

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most common neurological disorders which is potentially disabling the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). The nerve cells are protected by myelin (insulating covers). In this condition, these insulating covers are damaged which results in disruption of the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. This particular disease shows a wide variety of signs & symptoms. The symptoms for Multiple Sclerosis may appear between the age group of 20 – 50 years.

According to Dr Enoka Corea, “One of our key areas of concern for MS patients is the lack of accessibility for them to public-spaces – be it a place of entertainment or worship, and more importantly, the lack of employment opportunities. This is a serious issue which causes patients to feel useless and unproductive, which in turn tends to affect their mental health and well-being.

The stigma of disability and unwarranted pity can alienate them from day-today-activities and society in general. It is important to remind ourselves that we all could develop some sort of disability with ageing and we would benefit if we address these issues”. Dr Enoka Corea is the President of Multiple Sclerosis Association of Lanka.

In Sri Lanka, the MSAL has held commemorations of this Day for Multiple Sclerosis Awareness in Sri Lanka ever since the first World Multiple Sclerosis Day, in 2009.

How common is it and who develops Multiple Sclerosis?
  • Predominantly, the younger age group (20-50 yrs.) is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
  • Multiple sclerosis can occur in children. Usually, the incidence is rare.
  • At present, 2.5 million people worldwide are affected by this disease.
  • It is observed that MS is 2-3 times more common in women than men.
What are the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?

A wide variety of symptoms are observed in MS & categorised like as follows:

Common Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis:
  • Numbness or Tingling
  • Dizziness and Vertigo
  • Fatigue & Weakness
  • Walking Difficulties
  • Pain
  • Spasticity
  • Bowel Problems
  • Bladder Problems
  • Vision Problems
  • Cognitive Changes
  • Depression
  • Emotional Changes
Less Common Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis:
  • A headache
  • Hearing Loss
  • Swallowing Problems
  • Breathing Problems
  • Tremor
  • Speech Problems
  • Itching
  • Seizures
What causes Multiple Sclerosis?

MS affects different people in different ways. The symptom & severity varies from person to person. The exact cause of this is still unknown.

The immune system affects the CNS & causes inflammation. The inflammatory situation damages the myelin (protectors of nerve fibres), oligodendrocytes (CNS myelin Cells), underlying nerve fibre and produces varied symptoms. MS is not contagious or inherited, but it is observed that the following factors play a crucial role.

  • Immunologic factors
  • Genetic factors
  • Environmental factors
  • The Infection factors
What are the different types of Multiple Sclerosis?
Four main types are:
  • Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS)
  • Secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS)
  • Primary-progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS)
  • Progressive-relapsing multiple sclerosis (PRMS)
Is Multiple Sclerosis Curable?

The answer is no. But recent therapy & medications reduces the relapse & also delays the progression of disability. Recent therapeutic & technological advances are considered very encouraging to manage the disease.

Is Multiple Sclerosis Fatal?

Nowadays due to an advanced treatment guideline, improved healthcare technology and lifestyle changes, the life expectancy of the MS affected patient has increased. Many complications & symptoms associated with MS are nowadays manageable which also results in the increased life expectancy & better health condition of the affected person. In rare cases, the situation is can become worse.

How is Multiple Sclerosis diagnosed?

The physician may start with a thorough medical history, followed by an examination to diagnose MS including:

  • Blood tests
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
  • MRI
  • Evoked potential tests
How can Multiple Sclerosis be managed?

As mentioned earlier, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis. So the actual goal is to manage the disease by slowing down the progression. The possible approach to manage MS is as follows:

Medication Therapies
  • Disease-Modifying Drugs
  • Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Chemotherapeutic agents
  • Steroids
Supported Therapies
  • Physical Therapy
  • Counselling
  • Acupuncture therapy
  • Yoga & relaxation technique
  • Physical Exercise
  • Healthy diet
  • Stress removal

This is considered to be a long duration disease so the challenges to managing it are unique in every stage of the disease. So physician guidelines & proper management planning (medication, therapy, diet & supportive management) can help the patient to live in a better way. Every year the last Wednesday of May is observed as “World Multiple Sclerosis Day.”

Celebrating how research is bringing us closer to ending MS. #BringingUsCloser

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