Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks and damages the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerve cells, which disrupts the connections in the brain and spinal cord and results in a variety of symptoms.
There are four different types of multiple sclerosis, as outline in the table below.
Each type of MS can progress differently and people may be considered to be going through different stages, which are described in the table below.
Stage 1: Learning to live with the disease
|Stage 2: Moderate disability||
|Stage 3: Severe disability||
Stage 4: End stage
What Are Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) can vary from mild, to moderate, to severe and may include:
- Numbness, tingling, “pins and needles” feeling
- Electric shock sensations that accompany certain neck movements (Lhermitte sign)
- Muscle weakness or spasms
- Vision/eye problems
- Hazy vision
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Loss of color perception
- eye pain
- Unusual eye movements
- Spinning sensation (vertigo)
- Lack of coordination
- Loss of balance/falls
- Problems walking or speaking
- Bowel or bladder problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sensitivity to heat (may worsen symptoms)
- Problems thinking clearly
- Memory problems
- Mood swings
What Causes Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
The cause of multiple sclerosis (MS) is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of factors, including:
- Immune system dysfunction
How Is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Diagnosed?
In addition to a patient history and physical examination, when multiple sclerosis (MS) is suspected, tests that can 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
Nerve damage may be detected but multiple sclerosis may not be diagnosed initially. MS is often 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:
- Antibiotics for infections
- Antidepressants and anti-seizure medications for nerve pain
- Antidepressants for depression and mood changes
- Antihistamines for itching
- Bladder and bowel medications for bladder and bowel dysfunction
- Central nervous system stimulants for fatigue
- Erectile dysfunction medicines for sexual dysfunction
- Medications to treat dizziness and vertigo
- Medicines to treat tremors
- Muscle relaxants, benzodiazepines, and onabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) for muscle spasms
- Potassium channel blockers to treat difficulty walking
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