Multiple Sclerosis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. The immune system mistakenly attacks the protective tissue that surrounds and insulates nerve cells.
Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory condition in which a person’s own immune system, for reasons not fully understood, begins to attack the fatty material (called myelin) covering nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. This causes scarring or scleroses in these areas of the central nervous system. As scarring worsens, it causes multiple symptoms including difficulty walking, impaired vision, speech impediments and other disabilities.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating disease that causes the body to attack its own nerve cells. It can lead to a variety of symptoms including tremors, loss of sensation in the hands and feet, muscle weakness and spasms, vision problems among others.
Every case of Multiple Sclerosis is different but these are some common signs:
1) Reduced coordination
2) Difficulty walking
3) Muscle twitches in arms or legs
4) Weakness in extremities
How is Multiple Sclerosis diagnosed?
Multiple sclerosis is caused when the body’s immune system attacks the protective layer that surrounds nerve fibers. Doctors use Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to show how much damage and scar tissue a person has from MS. MRIs are also used to find out what kind of MS a person has.
The MRI will give a detailed picture of what is going on in and around the brain and spinal cord, which will help doctors make a more accurate diagnosis. In some cases, an MRI may be combined with other scans like CT or PET scans.
The process of getting diagnosed begins with an exam by your doctor, who will ask you about your symptoms, do an exam of your nervous system, order blood tests for chronic illnesses like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, or do other tests such as:
Optical coherence tomography (OCT). Provides a picture of the nerve layers in the back of your eyes from a different angle.
Spinal tap (lumbar puncture). Your doctor may ask you to undergo a lumbar puncture which is a way of looking for abnormalities in your spinal fluid. A lumbar puncture can help rule out infectious diseases or it could be used to look for oligoclonal bands (OCBs), which will help diagnose MS.
Blood tests. Doctors will often order blood tests to eliminate the possibility of other conditions, which can produce similar symptoms.
Visual evoked potentials (VEP) test. This test analyzes electrical activity in the brain by stimulating nerve pathways; it is often used to diagnose MS. In the past, brain stem auditory-evoked and sensory-evoked potential tests were also used for this purpose.
For a MS diagnosis you will need to show evidence of demyelination occurring in more than one area of your brain, spinal cord, and/or optic nerve. In addition, doctors must rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms. Lyme disease, lupus and Sjögren’s disease are just some of the examples.
What are the different types of MS?
There are three main types: Relapsing-Remitting, Chronic-Progressive, and Primary-Progressive.
Relapsing-remitting MS, which accounts for about 85% of all cases, is characterized by periods of remission during which no new lesions develop. The periods without symptoms, or remissions, can last weeks, months, or years and may eventually be followed by a relapse or worsening of symptoms.
Chronic-progressive MS (CPMS) is a progressive neurological disease that affects the central nervous system. It gradually damages the myelin sheath and the nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. This damage disrupts communication between your brain and body, which can cause problems such as paralysis, vision loss, incontinence, and cognitive decline.
In CPMS specifically, white blood cells destroy myelin in the central nervous system by mistake. Myelin protects nerves from damage by helping them send messages quickly to one another. Without it, messages sent to muscles get slowed down or don’t make it at all – which can lead to paralysis or other problems with movement and coordinatio
Primary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis is a rare form of the disease that typically starts with a gradual but steady decline in physical function. People with this form of the disease experience more frequent relapses and more rapid progression than people with other types of MS.
How is Multiple Sclerosis treated?
The most common treatment for MS currently is interferon beta-1a injections. These are given to patients every one to two weeks and reduce inflammation and slow down nerve damage.
There are other medications, such as methotrexate or corticosteroids pills that can also be taken to control inflammation or manage oral immunosuppressive therapy. There are also physical therapy treatments like yoga or tai chi that can be beneficial in preserving strength, flexibility and independence
Types of self-injectable medicines:
Below is a list of common oral medications used to treat relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS):
dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera)
diroximel fumarate (Vumerity)
IV infusion treatments for RRMS include:
Life expectancy for people with MS
The life expectancy for people with MS is not consistent across different studies. It’s difficult to estimate how long someone with MS will live because there are so many factors that influence a person’s life expectancy, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, education level and socioeconomic status.
MS patients need to be mindful of what they eat to avoid flare ups.
The research shows that there is no evidence that a specific diet can cure MS. It can be harmful to your health because it might have too much of certain vitamins or not enough of others. Make sure you talk to your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.
As a person living with MS, you ideally want to eat low-fat and high-fiber foods. Eating unprocessed or naturally processed food denatures more readily is important than processed foods. This is probably the same healthy diet that’s recommended for most people. One important thing to remember is to limit alcohol as much as possible.
Some research has shown that a diet low in saturated fats and supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids may help people with MS. However, large-scale studies have not yet confirmed this result. Regardless, it’s important for people who live with MS to be careful about limiting the amount of animals they consume.
Opt for fish and nut-based fat sources such as olive oil, avocado oil and almond butter which are rich in Omega-3s.
Medical researchers have found a link between vitamin D and biotin — a form of vitamin B also known as vitamin H — for multiple sclerosis disease activity. These discoveries are still new in the very early stages, but it is recommended that people who have MS keep their levels of these vitamins up.
It’s important for people with MS to make healthy food choices:
It’s important to get enough vitamins and minerals .
Skipping meals may be affecting your energy levels. Nutritious food can provide a number of benefits, such as helping you maintain steady blood sugar levels.
Weight gain is a common side effect of depression in MS patients and has been linked to some MS treatments such as steroids.
Weight gain is an important health issue that can lead to joint and muscle pain, heart and respiratory problems.
Alcohol is known to intensify common MS symptoms, such as difficulty maintaining balance and coordination.
Please call Superior Compounding Pharmacy in Plymouth Michigan to speak with one of our licensed pharmacists today at 734-404-6065. We can help answer any medication questions that you may have.