MS Story From one of our patients in Alberta Laser Rehabilitation Centre.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system, especially the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. This can lead to a wide range of symptoms throughout the body. It is not possible to predict how multiple sclerosis (MS) will progress in any individual.
Some people have mild symptoms, such as blurred vision and numbness and tingling in the limbs. In severe cases, a person may experience paralysis, vision loss, and mobility problems. However, this is rare.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society estimate the number could be closer to 1 million.
However, new treatments are proving effective at slowing the disease.
What is MS?
Scientists do not know exactly what causes MS, but they believe it is an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system (CNS). When a person has an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks healthy tissue, just as it might attack a virus or bacteria.
In the case of MS, the immune system attacks the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers, causing inflammation. Myelin also helps the nerves conduct electrical signals quickly and efficiently.
Multiple sclerosis means “scar tissue in multiple areas.”
When the myelin sheath disappears or sustains damage in multiple areas, it leaves a scar, or sclerosis. Doctors also call these areas plaques or lesions. They mainly affect:
- the brain stem
- the cerebellum, which coordinates movement and controls balance
- the spinal cord
- the optic nerves
- white matter in some regions of the brain
As more lesions develop, nerve fibers can break or become damaged. As a result, the electrical impulses from the brain do not flow smoothly to the target nerve. This means that the body cannot carry out certain functions.
Types of MS
There are four types of MS:
Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS): This is a single, first episode, with symptoms lasting at least 24 hours. If another episode occurs at a later date, a doctor will diagnose relapse-remitting MS.
Relapse-remitting MS (RRMS): This is the most common form, affecting around 85% of people with MS. RRMS involves episodes of new or increasing symptoms, followed by periods of remission, during which symptoms go away partially or totally.
Primary progressive MS (PPMS): Symptoms worsen progressively, without early relapses or remissions. Some people may experience times of stability and periods when symptoms worsen and then get better. Around 15% of people with MS have PPMS.
Secondary progressive MS (SPMS): At first, people will experience episodes of relapse and remission, but then the disease will start to progress steadily.