There are many frequently asked questions in relation to multiple sclerosis (MS). Here are a few of the most important MS questions and answers.
1. What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder in which the healthy tissue in the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, is attacked by the body. The attacks focus on the myelin sheaths of nerve cells, causing mis-signaling which can impair a person’s normal functions.
2. What are the most common symptoms of MS?
MS symptoms vary depending on which nerve cells are being damaged, and to what extent. Typical symptoms to watch out for include:
- Blurry vision
- Loss of vision in one eye
- Pain in one eye upon movement
- Loss of balance
- Poor coordination/clumsiness
- Slurred speech
- Slow speech — trouble in expressing information
- Brain fog, a lack of mental sharpness
- Tremors and shaking
- Numbness in the arms and legs
- Muscle spasms
- Urinary issues
- Bowel issues, such as constipation
- Sleep problems
3. Who gets MS?
Anyone may develop MS but there are some patterns. More than two to three times as many women as men develop MS, and this gender difference has been increasing over the past 50 years. In fact, women generally tend to develop autoimmune disorders more often than men.
Studies suggest that genetic risk factors increase the risk of developing MS, but there is no evidence that MS is directly inherited. However, those with family members who have it may be at greater risk.
Environmental factors such as low vitamin D and cigarette smoking have also been shown to increase the risk of MS. MS occurs in most ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics/Latinos, but is most common in Caucasians of Northern European ancestry.
4. When is MS usually diagnosed?
Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, although there have been cases as young as 2 and as old as 75.
5. How many people have MS?
More than 2.3 million people are affected by MS worldwide. This number may be larger due to the confusing nature of MS symptoms, leading to cases going undiagnosed.
6. Are the symptoms of MS the same for everyone?
No. Symptoms of MS are unpredictable. They vary in type and severity from one person to another. They can also vary in the same person over time. Symptoms may disappear completely, or they may persist and even worsen over time.
7. Is there more than one kind of MS?
Yes. There are four kinds:
* Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)
* Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS)
* Primary progressive MS (PPMS)
* Secondary progressive MS (SPMS)
RRMS is the most common, with around 85% of all patients suffering from this type.
8. What should a person with RRMS expect in terms of their illness?
Relapsing-remitting MS means the course of the disease will not be a steady decline, but more of an unpredictable pattern. After the initial presentation of MS, a person’s symptoms may vanish. Or, one symptom may linger, while others disappear. This would be termed a remission period.
However, at the next flare-up when symptoms appear again, there might be different symptoms or others that will get worse, or better. Some might even become permanent.
9. Does MS always cause paralysis?
No. More than 66% of people will MS will never become severely disabled. They should still be able to walk, though they may need assistive aids.
10. Is MS fatal?
In rare instances, MS can progress rapidly from the point at which it is diagnosed, and prove fatal. However, in the majority of cases, those who practice good self-care have a good chance of living close to the normal life expectancy of people in their country.
11. Is MS contagious?
No, it is an autoimmune disorder within one’s own body.
Hopefully, these MS questions and answers will help give a better understanding of MS. If you or any of your family are diagnosed with this condition, it helps to be fully informed.