Multiple sclerosis is a disease that disables the brain and spinal cord, causing a variety of potential symptoms, such as visual problems, difficulty moving your hands and feet, and balance problems.
In multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks a protective sheath called myelin, which covers nerve fibers. As a result, there is a communication problem between the brain and the rest of your body.
This disease is a lifelong condition and if left untreated, can cause severe disability. However, in most cases, symptoms of multiple sclerosis are treatable.
Multiple sclerosis is often diagnosed when people are in their 20s and 30s. This condition is also two to three times more common in women than men.
Causes of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease which causes the immune system to attack its own tissues. The cause of multiple sclerosis is still unknown.
Myelin is a fatty substance that functions to coat and protect nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. When myelin is damaged, the messages that travel along that nerve fiber may be slowed or blocked. Without a protective coating, the nerves are more prone to damage.
Myelin damage is caused by an attack from the immune system. This attack will injure the sheath and nerves within it.
According to some experts, genetics and environmental factors appear to be responsible for influencing the immune system to attack healthy tissues.
The risk of developing multiple sclerosis is higher if one of your parents or siblings has had it. In addition, this condition occurs in certain ethnic groups.
Generally, this disease commonly affects people in countries that are far from the equator or non-tropical countries.
When to See a Doctor for Multiple Sclerosis?
Since the diagnosis for this disease is relatively difficult, patients with multiple sclerosis should consult a neurologist.
There are no specific tests that can determine whether a person has multiple sclerosis.
In order to identify symptoms, doctors need to:
- Prove the damage occurred at a different point.
- Rule out the possibility of other diseases with similar symptoms.
- Locates damage in at least two points in the patient’s brain.
- The doctor will conduct a medical interview by asking about the patient’s medical history. Next, the doctor will perform a series of tests to see if the brain and spinal cord are working normally.
Next, the doctor will conduct a medical interview by asking about the patient’s medical history. Then, a series of tests will be conducted to see if the brain and spinal cord are working normally.
These tests include:
- MRI. This test shows if there is damage or injury to the myelin in the brain and spinal cord. This will help the doctor to rule out other conditions and detect multiple sclerosis.
- Nerve examination. This test is performed to look for abnormalities, changes, or weakness in vision, eye movements, hand or leg strength, balance, and reflexes.
- Lumbar puncture. This test is done to check for fluid flowing through the spine. High levels of protein and other substances will help doctors detect multiple sclerosis.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis can cause a wide variety of symptoms and affect any part of the body. Everyone experiences symptoms differently.
The symptoms of this condition are unpredictable. Some people experience symptoms that gradually worsen over time. Meanwhile, symptoms in other patients come and go from time to time.
The period when symptoms worsen is called the relapse. Meanwhile, when the symptoms improve, it is known as remission periods.
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis generally affect movement, such as:
- Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait.
- Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs that typically occurs on one side of your body at a time
- Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward
Partial or complete loss of vision, occurring at one time accompanied by pain when moving the eye.
- Blurred vision.
- Prolonged double vision.
- Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement
Additionally, other common symptoms that often occur in multiple sclerosis patients are:
- Slurred speech
- Tingling or pain in parts of your body
- Problems with sexual, bowel and bladder function
Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis
Similar to autoimmune diseases, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, doctors can provide treatments to help relieve symptoms and prolong the patient’s life.
Treatment is generally carried out through:
- Corticosteroid medications. The medications are prescribed to reduce nerve inflammation. Side effects of this type of medication include insomnia, increased blood pressure, and mood swings.
- Plasma exchange. This treatment is carried out by removing or separating the plasma fluid from blood cells. The blood cells are then mixed into a protein solution before finally being put back into the body.
For multiple sclerosis conditions that recur and occur for the umpteenth time, patients can undergo special therapy to change symptoms. Early aggressive treatment helps reduce the potential for relapse and slow the spread of symptoms.
Therapy for patients with recurrent multiple sclerosis varies, depending on their age, medical background, gender, and other conditions.
In some cases, treatment is also carried out through injection methods, such as:
- Interferon beta injection. An injection into the muscle to reduce the frequency and severity of relapses. This is the most common medicine for patients with multiple sclerosis.
- Glatiramer acetate injection. An injection to help block the immune system’s attack on myelin. This may cause side effects in the form of skin irritation in the injected area.
To relieve symptoms, the patient may also be advised to undergo a series of therapies, such as:
- Muscle relaxants to reduce muscle spasms and stiffness.
- Therapy with the consumption of medicines to reduce fatigue and dizziness.
- Physical therapy for stretching and strengthening muscles to make it easier to carry out daily activities.
Treatment Cost for Multiple Sclerosis
The treatment costs for multiple sclerosis vary, depending on the symptoms, the severity, and the method of treatment.
For more information regarding the estimated cost of multiple sclerosis treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Multiple Sclerosis
The cause of multiple sclerosis is still unknown. For this reason, there are no definite preventive measures to completely avoid this condition.
In general, doctors suspect a genetic factor in this disease. If someone has any family members who have a similar medical history, it is advisable to carry out routine examinations, especially when experiencing symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help relieve symptoms and prevent their rapid spread.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis
The most common treatment multiple sclerosis patients can do at home is to take medication regularly, based on the doctor’s prescription.
Furthermore, you should also engage in physical exercises regularly as recommended during physical therapy.