Multiple Sclerosis is an inflammatory disease that attacks the lining or covering of nerves. This nerve covering is called the myelin sheath. If you think of a nerve fibre as being like an electric lead, then the plastic covering the copper wire below, is like the myelin sheath covering a nerve. Multiple Sclerosis is referred to as a demyelinising disease. It is the commonest autoimmune disorder to affect the central nervous system.
Multiple Sclerosis is also called Disseminating Sclerosis and in some ways this is a better term in that the nerves affected by the autoimmune process may be scattered or disseminated throughout the body and the symptoms may be disseminated also in time.
The course of any one case of multiple sclerosis is utterly unpredictable. It may go into long or even permanent remission or it may frequently relapse and be progressive. But either way Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of remissions and exacerbations. This makes it all the more difficult to study in that it is never easy to say what’s working or what’s not in terms of treatments. This is also the reason why alternative treatments are so popular among MS sufferers. They are going into spontaneous remission but accrediting some herb or potion for the cure. Be careful about false promises in the Internet for MS.
What are the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
The early symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis or MS will depend on what nerves in the body are being attached by the autoimmune process but here are some of the commoner ones:
- Sudden onset of double vision where the optic nerve is being demyelinised.
- Sudden unexplainable urinary incontinence.
- A dropped foot or falling to the ground for no obvious reason.
- Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs that typically occurs on one side of your body at a time, or the legs and trunk
- Tingling or pain in parts of your body
- Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward
- Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait – finding it difficult to judge where your feet are exactly. Walking as though drunk.
- Slurred speech or difficulty swallowing
- Fatigue and inability to concentrate.
From this list you can see that the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis poses quite a challenge for doctors. Very often the early symptoms of MS go unnoticed and undiagnosed.