Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis occurs usually between 15-60 years of age and is an autoimmune disease. It means that in this disease the immune system of the body malfunctions. The immune system not only fights with the viruses, bacteria and other threatening elements in the body but also it starts attacking healthy tissues of the patient’s body under this disease. There are many such autoimmune diseases which could adversely affect healthy organs of a patient’s body by malfunctioning of the immune system. But in the case of multiple sclerosis, the brain and the spinal cord are the most affected organs of the patient’s body.

The central nervous system is also likely to get damaged as under this disease the immune system mistakenly deteriorates Myelin of nerve fibres. Similar to the insulation coating on electrical wires, Myelin is a fatty substance that forms a protective covering for nerve fibres chiefly in the brain and spinal cord. This damage in the protective covering exposes nerve fibre and slows down or blocks the messages travelling through the nerves. Due to this hindrance in the nervous system, the resultant loss of connection between the brain and the organs of the body impacts the patient’s body significantly. Inflammation, scarred tissue, and lesions are added problems that occur along with this disease.

The effect of Sclerosis is unpredictable as it varies from one patient to the other. Some patients with Multiple Sclerosis become bedridden or need wheelchair support eventually as their nerves get damaged completely. However, some patients spend years in the stage of remission which means they do not show signs of deterioration at all for months or even years. There may be some relapsing instances in between the period where the attack could last for few days, weeks or months. However, most of the people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis show symptoms indicating slow and steady progress of the disease in the patient’s body, with or without remission period.

Symptoms

The course of progress of this disease in a patient’s body is unpredictable and the organs that are affected by this disease also vary in each body. Likewise, symptoms also differ significantly in every patient’s body. Some common symptoms that all the patients of Sclerosis experience are:

-  Pain and tingling sensation in body parts.

-  Regular fatigue, dizziness, and tremors.

-  Unclear speech.

-  Double vision/blurred vision consistently for a long period or partial/complete loss of vision in an eye.

-  Pain in eye or eyes while moving them.

-  Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs especially in legs, trunk or one side of the body, at any point of time and any number of times without any valid cause.

-  Unsteady gait, improper balancing, frequent tripping while walking, jogging or any other physical activity.

-  Lack of coordination in the brain and other body organs.

-  Bowel and bladder functioning problems.

It might be hard to say whether these symptoms will be cured and will not appear again if the person is suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. Since some of the symptoms are generic, they may not necessarily be due to Multiple Sclerosis, there could be some other reason for their occurrence. Thus, it is certainly advisable to get proper tests of the body facing these symptoms. Medical tests can clarify the actual reason for prevalent problems in the patient’s body.

Causes

Like other autoimmune diseases, the cause of Sclerosis is also unknown. Why the disease occurs in a few bodies and why, not in others is still yet to be proven. The factors causing Sclerosis could be genetic, environmental or it could be any reason. Mental stress, physical exertion, the existence of some other disease in the body, increase in body temperature and other similar factors can worsen the situation in patient's body. The precise causes of malfunctioning of the immune system are still unknown globally. However, a certain set of people are more prone to this disease which is given below:

-  The disease has not been assessed as hereditary till date; however, the genetic history of the disease in the family increases the risk of developing the disease.

-  Women are less resistant than men towards this disease.

-  Viral infections like Epstein-Barr causing mononucleosis could cause Multiple Sclerosis.

-  Toxins could trigger the attack of the immune system on the body.

-  A patient with other diseases like thyroid, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease is likely to develop Multiple Sclerosis earlier than a person without these issues would do.

-  Climatic conditions of countries bearing temperate climate like Europe, New Zealand, South Eastern Australia, Northern United States, Canada etc., could be a common risk for the occurrence of disease in patient’s body.

-  Studies have developed the results that Northern European descendants have a high risk of bearing Multiple Sclerosis than the descendants of Asian, Native American or African races.

-  Smokers are more prone to the risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis than non-smokers.

How is it diagnosed?

The best way to diagnose Multiple Sclerosis is by way of tests.

-  Blood tests confirm the existence or absence of the disease in the patient’s body. Blood tests rule out the possibility of it being mixed up with any other disease with similar symptoms.

-  MRI test scans the spinal cord and brain images. These images clearly show the extent of damage in myelin. An exact picture of active and inactive lesions in the brain and spinal cord is figured out with the help of this test.

-  Evoked potential tests can also be undertaken under proper medical supervision. In this test nerve pathways are stimulated to assess the electrical activity of your brain. The test requires great precision. There could be three types of evoked potential tests viz. visual, sensory and brainstem.

-  The spinal tap is another test to check the existence and progression of disease in the patient’s body. This test allows doctors to check for abnormalities in the patient’s spinal fluid. The test is undertaken by collecting a sample from the fluid after giving local anaesthesia to the patient.

All the above tests help to diagnose the extent to which Multiple Sclerosis has spread in patient’s body. Such tests are required by the doctor to diagnose a patient’s current condition and plan the medicinal course.

Prevention

There are no such preventive measures to stop the disease from occurring in the body as the factors that cause this disease are unknown. Quitting smoking is advisable since smoking reduces the immunity of the body in general. Prompt treatment of any kind of viral infection is also recommended. Patients with diseases like thyroid, diabetes shall take extra care in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

If somebody is already suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, there are few preventive measures that they can take to prevent the flare-ups of the disease in their body:

-  Regular physical exercises to keep the body active.

-  Avoiding physical and mental stress.

-  Meditate to have a positive approach towards life.

-  Consume a healthy diet by avoiding saturated food and diet drinks. Avoid drinks containing aspartame, alcohol, and caffeine if there are bladder-related symptoms. In Multiple Sclerosis, such drinks tend to irritate the bladder. Low-fat milk and milk products should be preferred to keep the patient healthy.

-  Manage the body weight. Switching to natural sugar of fruits etc. and avoiding refined sugar intake will help.

Treatment

Since the progression of the disease varies from one patient to the other, the treatment for the disease will also be different for them. Before starting the treatment, the patient must accept that there is no complete cure for the disease like other autoimmune diseases. It is a lifelong disease and would need lifelong treatment and care.

Multiple Sclerosis can be treated and the progression of the disease in the body which damages the nerves can be slowed down with medications. How the patient’s body will respond to these medications is unpredictable and the response differs from patient to patient. No two patients can have the same treatment so comparison of treatment with any other patient’s prescribed medicines will not be helpful. In few patients, the disease starts entering remission stage soon after starting medicines and for such patients, low doses could work. Whereas, if the patient does not get relief from symptoms of the disease even after taking medicines then it can be considered that the disease is quite active in them and they may need a higher dose of medicines to suppress the disease and its symptoms for the time being. The medical practitioner and specialists will be to prescribe what is more suitable for which patient.

Both oral and injectable medicines are available to treat Multiple Sclerosis. Some of them are listed below:

Oral medicines:

-  Tecfidera (Dimethyl Fumarate)

-  Aubagio (Teriflunomide)

-  Gilenya (Fingolimod)

Injectable medicines:

- Intravenous

-  Tysabri (Natalizumab)

-  Lemtrada (Alemtuzumab)

-  Novantrone (Mitoxantrone)

- Self-injectable

-  Copaxone (Glatiramer)

-  Beta Interferons, such as Avonex, Betaseron, Extavia, Plegridy

It is good to have knowledge of these medicines, but patients cannot control the dosage on their own to treat the disease. All or any of the above medicines shall be taken strictly under medical supervision and as prescribed by the doctor after diagnosing the current condition of the disease in the patient’s body. The doctor can also guide the patient for other treatments and exercises to improve the quality of life. Regular counselling may also be needed for the patient to boost the morale of the patient as the severity of disease could lead to depression.  This will help the patient to fight against the disease in their body.

Complications

Not only this disease affects myelin of the nerves, but it is also accompanied by a few other problems that could be mental or physical. Some other complications that are caused because of Sclerosis are mood swings, depression, forgetfulness, and epilepsy. Muscle stiffness or spasms become a regular problem for the patient. In worse cases, paralysis attack could happen primarily in legs. Difficulty in bladder, bowel or sexual functioning is another challenge that patients of Sclerosis generally face.

Myths

It is believed that Aspartame causes Multiple Sclerosis. The virus is carried by dogs, having allergies, physical trauma, exposure to heavy metals were also proposed as probable causes of the disease. However, all these believed causes are myths. The valid reasons causing Multiple Sclerosis are still unknown.

It is important to remember that the patient may have to face physical challenges due to this disease at various intervals in life but overcoming them through efficient management of the disease can also be done. Many patients resort to the natural healing techniques to make themselves feel better. A timely visit to a practised doctor to treat Multiple Sclerosis is the primary step. Thereafter, dutifully taking the prescribed medicines at the recommended schedule cannot be ignored in any case. A balanced diet with high nutrients and fibre and low calories is better for the patient with Multiple Sclerosis just as it is better for a normal body. Regular exercise is important irrespective of any disability in the patient's body. Doctors can guide the patient to do recommended exercises depending on the condition of the patient. Swimming, yoga, walking are the basic ones.  Medication can also be accompanied by acupuncture, hypnotherapy, massage, Tai Chi etc. to give support and temporary relief from symptoms. However, keep in mind, that these therapies are not the substitutes of medicines; they can only second your medication. Also important is the positive attitude which greatly helps in reducing the mental pain.

For patients with sclerosis, evening primrose oil is also suggested. This oil is present in sunflower seeds and can also be extracted from sunflower oil. Using this oil can slightly affect the symptoms of multiple sclerosis in a positive way. Music therapy and meditation can also help in keeping the mind balanced and induce positivity in the overall lifestyle. This will ultimately motivate the patient to keep going even after Multiple Sclerosis is a part of their body.

Last updated on : 14-09-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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