Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune condition. Known colloquially as MS, the condition causes the immune system to attack myelin, the protective covering around nerve fibers. The result is consistent and widespread inflammation, which can hinder mobility and cause pain. Most people with MS also experience extreme fatigue, vision disruption, and speech issues. Multiple sclerosis can occur in people of all ages, but diagnoses typically occur between ages 15 and 60.
While there is no known cure for multiple sclerosis, patients can manage symptoms with the help of a physician. If you are experiencing MS symptoms, contact your primary care physician or a neurologist as soon as possible. Additionally, if you have MS and are looking for a new provider, Premier Medical Group is ready and able to help you take control over your condition.
Multiple sclerosis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. In the case of MS, the brain and nerves – the central nervous system – are the target of the attack. Specifically, the immune system targets myelin. Myelin is the fatty substance that protects the nerve fibers in the spinal cord and brain. If the myelin is damaged, signals from the brain can’t reach their destination. Without this protective sheath, the nerves become damaged. This, in turn, leads to bodily dysfunction, which can include both mobility and cognitive impairment.
Doctors don’t yet know the cause of multiple sclerosis. However, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, women are four times more likely to develop the condition than men. The points to a potential genetic cause. Ongoing research also points to potential environmental factors, like location and air quality, as contributing to MS development. Additionally, certain experiences, like viral infection and emotional trauma, can cause MS symptoms to worsen. Symptoms can be managed with the help of a physician.
Multiple sclerosis symptoms are often nebulous and wide-ranging. Because MS is an autoimmune and neurological disorder, its presentation can vary by person. Additionally, MS symptoms vary in severity depending on potential triggers and symptom management.
Still, some MS symptoms are experienced more widely than others. The most common symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis include:
Other less common but widespread symptoms include muscle tremors, sleep disorders, brain fog, chronic or acute pain, bladder incontinence, and difficulty chewing and swallowing food.
Additionally, symptoms of multiple sclerosis can differ by sex. Females may experience menstrual problems, more severe symptoms after menopause, and various pregnancy-related symptoms. Note that MS is not shown to affect fertility.
Because multiple sclerosis can affect people differently, researchers have worked to define different types of MS that better characterize a specific patient experience.
If you suspect you may have multiple sclerosis, your doctor will begin the diagnosis process. They will most likely refer you to a neurologist, who will provide a routine neurological exam. Then, the doctor will choose one or more of the following screening tools to provide a formal diagnosis.
While multiple sclerosis is not wholly diagnosed by ruling out other conditions, certain diseases have overlapping symptoms. This includes lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, and Lyme disease. Often, a doctor will do tests to check for these conditions before providing a definitive MS diagnosis.
While there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, doctors can prescript treatments to ease symptoms. This, in turn, will improve a patient’s quality of life. Common multiple sclerosis treatments include various disease-modifying therapies, or DMTs. These injectable treatments can decrease relapses and slow the progression of MS in an individual. Doctors may also prescribe oral or intravenous medications to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Corticosteroids can be used to treat relapses, but they are not intended for long-term use.
Keep in mind that MS is a deeply individualized condition, so not all treatments are suitable for all patients. Building a relationship with your neurologist is key to understanding which medications will work for you long-term.
Yes, multiple sclerosis can go into remission. Symptoms often come and go over time. For some patients, symptoms may last for weeks or months. For others, they may only last a couple of hours or days. Remember that being in remission does not mean that you no longer MS; there is no cure for the condition. However, it can reduce the likelihood of a patient developing new degenerative symptoms, which can improve life expectancy and quality of life.
People with multiple sclerosis can lead fulfilling lives. For some, flares are uncommon, only affecting the patient a few weeks out of the year. For others, flares are consistent and can hinder the person’s ability to complete day-to-day tasks. While personal experience with multiple sclerosis will vary, here are some things to expect after diagnosis.
Diet and exercise are important for people with multiple sclerosis. Many doctors encourage MS patients to try low-impact forms of exercise, like swimming and yoga. Additionally, consuming a well-rounded diet can help to manage overall health.
Multiple sclerosis may affect life expectancy. According to a recent study, the median life expectancy for MS patients was 74.7, which is compared to the 81.8 years expected in the general population. However, this life expectancy gap has become smaller with the invention of new treatments. Early
diagnosis and management can also allow patients to proactively manage the condition. Keep an eye out for early signs of MS, like double vision, weak legs, and numb or tingling limbs.
In general, people with multiple sclerosis can expect to lead long, fulfilling lives. Managing symptoms with the help of a neurologist can help prolong that life and make it more enjoyable to live. If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of MS, schedule an appointment as soon as possible.