What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition caused through the build-up of scar tissue to the myelin sheath, the material that surrounds and protects your nerve cells, in the brain and/or spinal cord. This damage slows down and blocks the messages between your brain and body resulting in the in the loss of muscle control, vision, balance, and sensation leaving many sufferers feeling numbness, pins & needles and tightness in the chest. MS affects around 100,000 people in the UK, with diagnosis being made to people between the ages of 20 – 40; it affects approximately three times more women than it does men. No one knows what causes Multiple sclerosis but we do know that sufferers are not born with it.
Are there different types of MS?
Yes. MS has four primary forms. The most common form is called -
Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS).
People with this form of MS tend to have attacks of which the symptoms then fade either partially or completely. This form of MS affects approximately 85% - 90% of sufferers. Other forms include -
Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS)
Progresses slowly yet steadily from the beginning. Symptoms stay at the same level of intensity without decreasing, and there are no remission periods. Sufferers of PPMS tend to experience a continuous worsening of their condition.
Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS)
The form that follows RRMS. SPMS sufferers worsen from relapses without tending to recover leading to the build-up of disability. On average, around 65% of people with relapsing remitting MS will develop secondary progressive MS 15 years after being diagnosed.
Progressive-Relapsing is a relatively rare form of MS. People experience their condition as steadily worsening, yet also experience clear relapses in the form of acute flare-ups. In some cases, there is no recovery from these flare-ups, although in other cases there is recovery. The difference between progressive-relapsing MS and relapsing-remitting MS is that in the former type, the periods between relapses involve continuing progression of the disease.
What are the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
Symptoms of MS can vary from person to person and can even change over time. The most common early symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased coordination
- Pain behind the eyes
- Blurred or Double vision
As the disease progresses, symptoms can further develop causing muscle spasm, difficulty controlling urination, or problems with cognition. MS is usually a mild disease but in some cases people can lose the ability to write, speak or even walk.
What are the stages of Multiple Sclerosis?
MS affects everyone differently so there is no way of identifying the particular stages a sufferer will go through. Some symptoms of MS in people can be far more severe than in others. Some may be mild, brief, or long lasting and can appear in various combinations.
What are the tests for Multiple Sclerosis?
There is no single test for MS. Doctors use a medical history, physical exam, neurological exam, MRI, and other tests to diagnose it. There is also no cure for MS, but medicines may slow it down and help control symptoms. Physical and occupational therapy may also help. MS can be a challenging and frustrating condition to live with but new treatments over the past 20 years have considerably improved the quality of life of people with the disease. If you’re worried or want to speak with someone about MS you should speak with your GP who will be able to give you further advice.