What Is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks and damages the myelin sheaths that surround nerve cells, disrupting their connections in the brain and spinal cord and resulting in a range of symptoms.
There are several types of multiple sclerosis:
- The most common type of MS
- Symptoms come and go
- When symptoms flare up, it is called an attack or relapse that can last days to weeks
- In between attacks, people may feel normal
- Secondary progressive
- Symptoms come and go at first but eventually worsen
- Primary progressive
- Symptoms steadily worsen from the onset
- Progressive relapsing
- Symptoms steadily worsen, along with attacks that come and go
What Are Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Numbness, tingling, “pins and needles” feeling
- Muscle weakness or spasms
- Vision problems
- Blurred vision
- Hazy vision
- Loss of color perception
- Double vision
- Eye pain
- Unusual eye movements
- Spinning sensation (vertigo)
- Loss of balance/falls
- Loss of coordination
- Difficulty walking or speaking
- Bowel or bladder problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sensitivity to heat (may worsen symptoms)
- Trouble thinking clearly
- Memory problems
- Mood swings
What Causes Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
The cause of multiple sclerosis (MS) is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of factors:
- Immune system dysfunction
Is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Contagious?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is not contagious. It is considered to be an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own central nervous system (specifically the myelin sheath that surrounds nerves).
How Do Doctors Diagnose Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
If multiple sclerosis (MS) is suspected tests used to help confirm a diagnosis include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Lumbar puncture (also called a “spinal tap”)
- Evoked potentials (or evoked responses) tests electrical signals in the brain and spinal cord
- Optical coherence tomography
- Blood tests to rule out other conditions that can cause symptoms similar to MS
Sometimes nerve damage may be detected, but MS is not diagnosed at first. In many cases, MS is only diagnosed after observing symptoms and comparing test results over time.
What Is the Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) depends on the type of MS.
Treatment for MS attacks includes steroids to reduce inflammation.
Disease-modifying therapy medications can help reduce flares and can help slow down progressive MS:
- Injectable medications
- Oral medications
- Infused medications
Additional medications may be used to treat specific symptoms of MS, such as:
- Bladder and bowel medications for bladder and bowel dysfunction
- Antibiotics for infections
- Antidepressants for depression and mood changes
- Medicines for dizziness and vertigo
- Central nervous system stimulants for fatigue
- Antihistamines for itching
- Antidepressants and anti-seizures medications for nerve pain
- Erectile dysfunction medicines for sexual dysfunction
- Muscle relaxants, benzodiazepines, and onabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) for muscle spasticity
- Medicines to treat tremors
- Potassium channel blockers to treat difficulty walking
What Are Complications of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Complications of multiple sclerosis (MS) usually occur in the later stages of the illness and may include:
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"Patient education: Multiple sclerosis in adults (The Basics)." Jan. 5, 2021. UpToDate.com. <https://www.uptodate.com/contents/multiple-sclerosis-in-adults-the-basics>.