Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis

Overview

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic central nervous system disorder that affects the brain, the spinal cord and the optic nerves. Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune disorder in which the immune system attacks the protective myelin sheath of the nerves, causing nerve damage. The signs and symptoms of the condition vary widely, depending 0n the nerves affected and the extent of damage. With time, the disease can cause permanent loss of function in the affected nerves. With treatment, the patient’s symptoms and the pace of nerve degeneration can be managed and controlled.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary widely, based on the affected nerves and the extent of nerve degeneration. The patients experience problems with vision, balance, sensation and rarely disabling weakness. Most patients at some point of their life have problems with bladder continence. Long term issues also include tremors, chronic pain, problems with cognitive functions, memory and speech, sexual dysfunction, seizures.

Causes

The causes of multiple sclerosis are unclear. In some cases, it appears to be caused by an auto-immune response elicited in response to environmental toxin or an infection.

Risk factors

Smokers are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis than non-smokers. There also appears to be genetic link, so a family history of multiple sclerosis increases the patient’s risk of developing the condition. Vitamin D deficiency appears to be linked to a higher risk levels.

Complications

Patients with multiple sclerosis may develop paralysis, incontinence or depression. The disease can cause a loss of mobility.

Diagnosis

The doctor will need a detailed patient medical history, physical exam, an MRI scan, a panel of blood tests, an optical CT scan and a spinal tap to perform an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment for MS can provide symptomatic relief and slow the progression of the condition. The doctor may treat the patient with drug therapies that keep a check on the immune cells. Drugs are also useful to treat incontinence, fatigue and walking disability. Heat massages, acupuncture, stress management techniques and a healthy diet also play a vital role. The patient would also be advised to quit smoking and avoid drinking. Rehabilitation, physical therapy, speech therapy and cognitive rehabilitation may also be helpful. In the case of severe multiple sclerosis attacks, the patient may be treated with intravenous steroid and plasma exchange. This process involves extracting the patient’s blood, isolating the plasma from the rest of the blood, replacing it with new plasma and transfusing the blood back into the patient. This process aims to remove the antibodies in the patient’s blood that are attacking the central nervous system.

Prevention

As the exact cause of multiple sclerosis is still unknown, there are no strategies in place for prevention.

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