Multiple Sclerosis a chronic, often debilitating disease of the nervous system. It primarily affects the central nervous system (CNS) and is characterized by many lesions in the nerve cells of the brain and the spinal cord.
In a person suffering from MS there is heightened immune activity that targets and attacks the myelin sheath of the CNS leading to the 'demyelination' of the nerve cells. This impairs communication between the brain and the body resulting in the onset of MS symptoms.
The disease usually sets in between the age of 20-40 years and affects more women than men. The most common form of multiple sclerosis is the relapsing-remitting type which is characterized by spontaneous attacks followed by long periods of remission. Who is at risk?
The causes of MS is little understood but there is a school of thought that it is an autoimmune disease
that occurs when the body attacks itself.
• Environment, genetics and viruses and hormones have also been implicated.
• The disease is more prevalent in the temperate regions in Northern Europe and occurs more frequently among the whites
compared to any other ethnic group.
• The first and second degree relatives
of the affected individuals are more prone to develop the disease, suggesting that genetic factors also play a role in its onset.
• Herpes virus and viruses
that cause measles and flu have also been associated with MS. Symptoms Early symptoms that commonly occur include tingling, numbness, weakness in the limbs, loss of balance, blurred vision, double vision and abnormal "pins and needles" sensations.
Less common symptoms include slurred speech, lack of co- ordination, cognitive impairment and sudden paralysis.
As the disease progresses the patient tends to suffer from fatigue, dizziness, impaired thinking and memory, speech disabilities, difficulty in swallowing, spasticity and difficulty in walking.
MS is usually detected by carrying out a lumbar puncture or a spinal tap to draw some cerebrospinal fluid to check for the presence of certain antibodies that could indicate heightened immune activity.
MRI scan and neurological exams are also part of MS diagnosis.
More recently a simple. hand-held kit, that used biosensor technology, has been devised to detect biomarkers characteristic of the disease.
Is there a cure?
Managing the symptoms and preventing permanent damage is the usual treatment strategy.
There is no cure for MS, but there are medicines that help to slow the disease by controlling the symptoms. Interferons, corticosteroids (especially intravenous), muscle relaxants, stimulants, pain killers antidepressants and medications for bladder/bowel control are some of the commonly used medications for and are administered to control symptoms during a relapse.
Physical and occupational therapy also help in patient management. They help to reduce the dependency of the patient by strengthening muscles and by teaching the usage of devices that help to ease everyday life.
Multiple Sclerosis Society of India (MSSI)
Mr Firdose Vandrevala, Hon. President of MSSI said, "As the only Society in India working towards the cause of helping the persons suffering from MS, it is our endeavor to increase awareness about this chronic disease. Since this disease cannot be detected easily, it is important that the patients connect with our branches across the country and seek the right guidance and medical assistance."
Efforts are on by the MSSI to provide various services such as counseling, home physiotherapy, home nursing, home visits, medical reimbursements and several more.
Let us as a society try to be more aware of the disease and be more sympathetic to the afflicted persons and their families. Let us hope that there is manifold increase in global awareness and that the good work of the pioneers continue!
Dr. Reeja Tharu/L