How Much Do You Know About Multiple Sclerosis? Seven Important Facts About this Neurological Disease
March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. Learn about the neurological disease that affects one person every hour in the U.S.
A neurological disease that disrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable illness that can affect people differently. Some have minimal symptoms, while others experience symptoms that last for short periods and are followed by stretches of relief. Others affected with MS steadily worsen, leading to increased disability over time. The onset of initial symptoms is most often between the ages of 20 and 40 but can sometimes appear in children and older adults. The number of Americans living with MS is estimated at one million, according to research published in March 2019 in the journal Neurology.
March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to bring attention to this disease and share some helpful facts everyone should know.
There is no single test to diagnose MS.
Healthcare providers rely on a compilation of information including medical histories, neurologic exams, and assessment of symptoms. Tests, such as a blood test, a spinal fluid analysis, and an MRI, are administered to support the clinical diagnosis. For someone to be diagnosed with MS, they must typically show signs of damage in at least two areas of the central nervous system—like the brain, optic nerve, or spinal cord—that occurred at different points in time.
The causes are unclear.
While the cause of MS is damage to neurons, nerve fibers, and myelin—the protective covering of nerve cells—in the brain and spinal cord, the reason for this damage is not fully understood, Many researchers believe MS to be an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the nerves. It may develop due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some recent research indicates that infection with the Epstein-Barr virus may be a trigger.
The course of MS is unpredictable.
For some people, the symptoms are obvious and persistent, leading to a diagnosis shortly after onset. For others, it can be years before a healthcare professional is able to definitively diagnose the illness. The symptoms come and go for many people. In severe cases, however, those affected may be unable to speak, walk, or write.
Get to know the signs and symptoms.
Early symptoms of MS include dizziness, clumsiness, tingling extremities, bladder control problems, and vision issues, such as blurred or double vision and pain in the eye area. As MS progresses, mental and physical fatigue, changes in mood, and loss of ability to concentrate can occur. Less common symptoms may include seizures, breathing problems, and hearing loss. It’s important to remember that these signs and symptoms may also change or fluctuate over time.
Treatment for MS is available.
Dealing with MS is an ongoing process. It begins at diagnosis and evolves throughout the course of the affected person’s life. While there is no cure for MS, effective treatments have been developed that reduce the number of attacks, alleviate symptoms, and slow the progression of the disease. Certain medications can help both manage the condition and enhance the overall quality of daily life.
Lifestyle changes can lessen the severity of symptoms.
In addition to managing MS symptoms with treatment and medications, certain lifestyle adjustments can help people live well with the disease. Physical activity helps keep muscles loose, promotes heart health, and can improve balance. Heat can worsen the symptoms of MS, so those affected should keep their homes at a cooler temperature, avoid taking hot showers and baths, and consider exercising at a cooler time of day, such as the morning or evening. Maintaining a well-rounded, nutritious diet benefits those with chronic illnesses like MS. Focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while limiting salt, added sugar, and saturated fat promotes overall health.
Be on the lookout for orange ribbons adorned with a butterfly symbol.
This emblem represents MS support and advocacy. Orange is the official color for Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, while the butterfly signifies the shape commonly seen on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans of those affected.
We hope you found this article informative and helpful. If you or someone you know has MS, having a solid support system of medical professionals, friends, and family is the best way to manage symptoms and enjoy life its fullest. If you need additional resources, our caring professionals are here for you. Please contact us anytime.
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