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Understanding Multiple Sclerosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Management

When you experience illnesses like the flu, you have hope to feel better within a week. However, in cases of chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS), the reality is entirely different.

Understanding Multiple Sclerosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Management

Visualise waking up each day uncertain of what symptoms might emerge and disrupt your daily routine. MS deeply impacts your life, presenting challenges that extend far beyond a few days of discomfort.


In this blog, we’ll explore everything about MS: an overview, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and ideal treatment to manage it effectively.


What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a severe disease that affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).


In MS, the immune system harms the protective sheath (myelin) that creates communication problems between your brain and the entire body. Sooner, the disease can result in permanent damage of the nerve fibres.


MS symptoms differ depending on the individual and the extent of nerve fibre damage in their central nervous system. Few people with severe MS may find difficulty walking independently. Whereas, other individuals may experience remission for a long time without any new symptoms, depending on the type of MS they have.


Statistics on MS

To get the complete idea of multiple sclerosis, it's necessary to take a glance at the numbers. Given below are a few key statistics that shed light on the prevalence of this condition.


Statistics on Multiple Sclerosis

Different Types of MS


There are four different types of MS according to which a healthcare professional creates an effective treatment plan for the patient. They are:


  • Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)

Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) is the initial stage of neurologic symptoms. If you have CIS, you may or may not go on to have MS. The more common symptoms of CIS include vision problems, bladder dysfunction and more.


  • Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS)

RRMS is the most common MS type. It shows new or emerging neurologic symptoms, i.e. relapses. Initially, around 85% are diagnosed with RRMS, but it may progress to secondary progressive MS.


  • Secondary progressive MS (SPMS)

Few people diagnosed with RRMS eventually transition to secondary progressive MS (SPMS). In this MS type, neurologic function deteriorates progressively and causes increased disability over time. In SPMS, you may experience occasional relapses and periods of stability.


  • Primary progressive MS (PPMS)

With PPMS, neurologic function gets worse immediately the symptoms appear. There is no sign of early relapses of remission. Around 15% of individuals with MS are diagnosed with PPMS and every person’s experience with this type of MS is unique.


Symptoms of MS

The symptoms of MS appear in multiple ways. Its symptoms are usually seen in people between ages 20 and 40, and they are as follows:


Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis


  • Blurred vision

  • blindness in one eye or red-green colour distortion

  • Severe tiredness

  • Difficulty walking or standing

  • Muscle weakness 

  • Partial or complete paralysis

  • Tremors or dizziness

  • Hearing loss

  • Memory loss 

  • Numbness 

  • Speech problems

  • Depression


If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s time to visit a health care provider for a check-up to know if it is MS or not.


Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis

A healthcare provider, most probably a neurologist, conducts a neurological exam to diagnose MS. Typically, the doctor will ask you about your clinical history, if any, and prescribe mandatory tests to confirm the diagnosis.


Diagnostic testing may involve:

  • Blood tests

  • MRI scan

  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)

  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT)

  • Visual evoked potentials (VEP) test


An MS diagnosis needs proof of demyelination happening at different times in multiple areas of your spinal cord, brain, or optic nerves.


Causes of MS


When it comes to causes of MS, they are unknown. As it’s an immune mediated disease, the immune system of the body harms its own tissues. In MS, the poor functioning of the immune system destroys myelin.


Myelin, a fatty substance, covers nerve fibres in the central nervous system. When it gets damaged and exposes the nerve fibre, the messages that transmit along that nerve fibre may get slowed or blocked.


The reason behind the development of MS in few people only is unclear. The amalgamation of environmental factors and genetics seems responsible.


Risk factors


Certain factors can increase your risk of developing multiple sclerosis:

  • Age

  • Certain infections

  • Genetics

  • Family history

  • Certain autoimmune diseases

  • Low levels of vitamin D 

  • Obesity

  • Smoking


Treatment and Management

The cure for multiple sclerosis is unknown. Existing treatments are planned to mitigate inflammation and possible symptoms from acute flares. These treatments are also great in the prevention of further attacks with disease-modifying medications.


For every person, treatments for MS will be distinct depending on the phase of the disease and symptoms.


Specific MS disease modifying therapies (DMTs) are initiated instantly to reduce the pace of disease progression and deter relapses.

Sometimes, steroids are used as a short-term method to treat relapses. Also, medications can provide relief from the symptoms of MS such as depression, muscle tightening, fatigue, and urinary. 


Rehabilitation specialists can assist in enhancing functioning, quality of life and lowering muscle stiffness and spasms.


Treatment and Management of Multiple Sclerosis

Several people experience fatigue with MS. Here are some better ways to manage fatigue:

  • Regular physical exercise

  • Take a balanced diet like fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein

  • Stay hydrated

  • Limit saturated fat, trans fat and beverages high in sugar

  • Healthy sleep patterns


Stress is also one of the reasons that may trigger or worsen symptoms. Meditation, yoga, massage, tai chi, meditation or deep breathing may help.


Life Expectancy with MS

MS brings several health complications, such as cardiovascular disease, infections, and accidents. This can result in decreasing the lifespan of someone with these complications compared to people who don’t already have MS. However, treating such complications can significantly eliminate the risk of a shortened lifespan.


Progressive types of MS are much faster than RRMS. Individuals with RRMS can remain in remission for several years. If there is no disability even after 5 years, it is actually a good indicator for the future.


Based on the study of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), the life expectancy of people with MS has improved over time. However, the complications associated with MS can lower the average lifespan by about 7 years compared to those without MS.


Conclusion

MS is considered an unpredictable disease that attacks differently in every person. To help you live a normal life with your symptoms now and in the future, develop a robust support system of healthcare professionals, family, and friends.


Don’t forget to follow the treatment plan that is created by your doctor based on the severity of MS in you. Suitable treatment can reduce relapses and allow you to live every day to the fullest.

 

Medical Negligence Lawyer

The Author : Dr. Sunil Khattri 

+91 9811618704


Dr. Sunil Khattri MBBS, MS(General Surgery), LLB, is a Medical doctor and is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi.


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