Healthy nerve fibers are surrounded by a protective coating called a myelin sheath, which helps facilitate nerve impulses traveling to and from your brain. With MS, the immune system erroneously attacks the nerve fibers in your brain and spinal cord, damaging the myelin sheath and disrupting normal nerve cell processes and messaging.
MS is considered an unpredictable disease because it affects each patient differently. Some people only have mild symptoms, while others eventually lose the ability to speak or walk.
MS is a variable and erratic disease, and no two patients have the same set of symptoms. Most patients also find that their symptoms change or fluctuate over time, becoming worse or getting better without explanation. Some patients experience just a few symptoms, while others have many, many more. Some of the most common symptoms include:
Fatigue: Roughly 80% of patients with MS have significant fatigue.
Numbness or tingling: Often one of the first symptoms to appear, MS commonly causes numbness in the face, body, arms, or legs.
Vision problems: Blurred vision, poor contrast vision, and painful eye movement are early symptoms for many MS patients.
Cognitive problems: Roughly half of all MS patients experience cognitive changes, including the ability to learn, process, or remember information.
Dizziness: MS can cause a feeling of lightheadedness or a feeling of being off balance.
Pain: More than half of all patients with MS experience pain, often chronically.
Spasticity: These involuntary muscle spasms or general muscle stiffness usually affects the legs of MS patients.
Walking difficulties: Weakness, loss of balance, and spasticity can all contribute to difficulty walking.
Researchers don’t yet know exactly what causes MS, but it’s thought that something in the environment may trigger the condition in genetically prone individuals.
Although anyone can develop MS, certain people are more likely to be affected. Women are about twice as likely as men to develop the disease, and it’s diagnosed most often in people between the ages of 15 and 60. MS isn’t genetically inherited, but having a family history of the disease can increase your chances of developing it.
MS is a complex disease that has no cure, but it can often be managed with a comprehensive, strategic approach. A comprehensive MS treatment plan has three primary goals: to slow the progression of the disease, manage the symptoms, and hasten the recovery from relapse attacks. This may involve medications to limit nerve inflammation, therapies to modify disease progression, and physical therapy to facilitate mobility.