MS: Common symptoms for uncommon illness
Happy Friday GlobalMusic4 Life Fans! We made it through another week in one piece hopefully. As the sun shines into my office I am delighted by the sounds of the kids next door at the church playing outside. It seems like a nice spring day. It is not though; it is 34 out and very far away from my happy to be outside temperature range.
Things are not always what they seem. Sometimes on the weekend I take care of my friend’s kids to give her a break. She loves them but three screaming me me’s are enough to drive you to drink Gatorade.
My friend has MS, or rather multiple sclerosis. I am her go to babysitter when her symptoms flare. They can be in remission for months and then out of the blue “wham!” It is very inconvenient to say the very least. However she is lucky, she has a good support system, including yours truly.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that can strike a person at any age. On average the diagnosed age is 29. It is often hard to initially diagnose and a true diagnosis requires the assistance of several specialists. These may include your internal medicine physician of family doctor. Neurologist, Neuro-ophthalmologists, and radiologist are all part of a good treatment team.
What is MS?
MS is an autoimmune disease. The current belief ( it is still being studied) is that an event happens in the body, maybe a severe viral attack ( Epstein Barr may be one of the culprits) and the T cells in the white blood cell group, over react. They cross the blood brain barrier and cause harm to nerve tissue by removing the fatty coating on nerves called myelin. This causes a certain type of micro scarring. This stops the nerves from sending and receiving messages properly. This affects the central nervous system… brain, spinal cord, and eyes. Yes, that pretty much covers the body. No one knows definitively what exactly causes MS, they do know there are genetic predispositions to it and many sufferers also have low vitamin D.
The symptoms vary from patient to patient which is one of the reasons it is hard to diagnose often.
The severity differs as well. Although women account for 70% of MS patients, men get the more severe forms more often. Scientist are not sure why.
- Muscle spasms and pain ( may stay or come and go erratically )
- Joint Pain and muscle pain
- Cognitive issues, many patients have problems with memory
- Fatigue beyond what is expected for their normal activity
- Frequent urgency to urinate
- Visual problems due to demyelination in the optical nerve bundle
- Sudden loss of vision
- Uncontrollable eye movements
- Double images due to weak eye muscles
- Muscle weakness
- Sexual problems
- Loss of desire
- Trouble achieving orgasm where there was problem before
- Reduced sensation
Wow, that is a lot. Those symptoms can cover a host of other diseases. The best way to diagnose is to rule out other ailments and then have an MRI. MS often leaves brain lesions that can be seen by a radiologist.
Types of MS
There are four main types. However 85% of the people with MS have relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. They have periods where certain symptoms will flare up and then go into a period of remission. The other types are secondary progressive where symptoms get worse over time. Primary progressive MS is where symptoms slowly worsen over time. The last one is the worse but only affects about 5 % of the MS sufferers. Progressive relapsing MS is where the disease’s symptoms quickly get worse and often never go into remission. Most of these sufferers are men.
What to do? Can your prevent MS?
No, there is no known prevention. It has been know to run in families but is not a genetic disease like sickle cell anemia. People with low Vitamin D have a higher chance of developing it. The human body needs a little UV light for natural vitamin D. Between sunscreen and living and working inside, many Americans have low vitamin D and have to supplement it. MY personal opinion is nothing takes the place of a 30 minute walk in the sun. Obesity and smoking are also risk factors.
Treatment and outlook
The outlook for MS is not horrible… there is no cure or preventative medication. There is however, increasingly more effective treatments to help MS patients deal with their illness better. Many MS patients feel diet and exercise help with their symptoms as well. ( Hey I blog for GM4L, I have to do a shout out for healthy eating and exercise) There are a number of natural therapeutic treatments to help with different symptoms. Usually the focus is on pain reduction and muscle control.
There is currently research going on in conjunction with scholars looking to find treatments for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. The goal is to figure out how MS is triggered and to stop that trigger. Another goal is to figure out how we can ad the myelin back to the damaged nerve bundles or generate new ones all together. The work is ongoing.
On a good note, my friend has had it for 12 years and she seems to be getting better. Her remissions lasts longer and her flare ups are not as severe and life altering. When she was first diagnosed it took the doctors three years to come up with MS. Now the same professionals can diagnose someone within weeks. That is a major thing. The sooner you are diagnosed the sooner effective treatment can begin.
She is doing better and I can send the little darlings back to her and her husband.
Are you or a loved one battling MS? How long did it take to diagnose? Let me know!
I am at MsMelissa@melissaweblog.com
Love and light,