Many nerves in the brain and spinal cord is protected by the so-called Myelin sheaths. The envelope supplies sensitive nerve fibers of nutrients and speeds up the passage of electrical impulses. If the myelin sheath is inflammed and swollen, it will damage the nerve fibers. If this disorder affects a series of nerves in the central nervous system, a disease known as multiple sclerosis will occur. The disease may affect any part of the brain or spinal cord that contain nerve coated with myelin. There is some evidence that the cause of damage could be a virus; the cause could be a lack or abnormality of a fatty substance which forms the myelin.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Myelin is so widespread in the nervous system that multiple sclerosis can be manifested in many different ways. The disease usually begins with undetermined transient symptoms, which completely disappears after one or two days, such as numbnessor a general weakness. The feeling may be occurring sporadic or affect just one limb or one side of the body. Due to the temporary weakness of the limbs, the affected people are often clumsy when handling objects, or they drag their feet when walking. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis often manifests after a hot bath or exercise. Numbness may subside, after which there is a strong sensitivity in the previously numbed spot.
Other possible symptoms of multiple sclerosis include ataxia (general physical instability), temporarily blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty with urination or urinary incontinence. All symptoms may disappear after the first episode. In some cases there are no further problems. In others, attacks are repeated with less complete recovery after each episode. This evolves into a permanent disability as a weakness of the limbs or general paralysis.
Contrary to common belief, there is no reliable evidence to suggest that the disease is heritable. Two-thirds of attacks starts in the age group of 20-40 years. The attacks never begin in children or in people over the age of 60. The disease is slightly more common in women.
Frequent attacks of multiple sclerosis can cause severe disability and death – although the outcome may not be fatal. If one of the symptoms is urinary incontinence, there is a risk of urinary tract infections.
What to do?
If you have symptoms of multiple sclerosis, your doctor will probably send you to a neurologist. There is no specific diagnostic tests for this disease, but some tests – e.g. ophthalmoscopy, lumbar puncture and X-rays of the skull and chest – may exclude other possible disorders.
Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis
Self-help: for people affected by severe multiple sclerosis, the best solution that is trying to come to terms with the state of things. Optimistic and constructive approach to the problem is the best solution in adapting to the necessary changes.
Professional help: some doctors believe that (in some cases) the symptoms can be facilitated with injections or pills containing corticosteroid drugs. Of course, there are other ways of treating – e.g. using a sunflower oil in the diet (as these types of oils contains higher amounts of a chemical that is required for growth and repair of myelin), which can reduce the frequency and severity of seizures.
Stiffness or muscle pain can sometimes be facilitated with medication for muscle relaxation; in some cases spasms are partially solved by surgery. In the case of particularly nasty urinary incontinence, it is best to install catheter into the bladder. The urine drains into a bag, which is daily emptied and cleaned. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy for muscle strengthening, and occupational therapy for maintenance activities. Multiple sclerosis can cripple patients, but only in limited and severe cases. Many people get transient symptoms that disappear without permanent consequences, but in other there is a lower degree of disability, so basically, they can lead a normal life. In fact, five years after the diagnosis, about 70% of patients still works on their jobs.