Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that affects your central nervous system. It is considered an autoimmune disease, which means your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your healthy cells.
In the case of MS, the immune system attacks the protective myelin sheath that covers the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord. This damage disrupts the electric signals that are sent between the brain and other parts of the body, leading to a wide range of symptoms.
These symptoms include numbness and tingling, pain, fatigue, difficulty with coordination and balance, vision problems and cognitive changes.
While there is currently no cure for MS, there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis
Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) is a form of multiple sclerosis (MS) that is characterised by periods of symptom flare-ups (relapses) followed by periods of remission where symptoms are reduced or eliminated.
RRMS is the most common form of MS and affects about 85% of people. RRMS symptoms can vary widely, depending on the area of the nervous system affected. Common symptoms include fatigue, numbness, tingling sensation and vision loss.
Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS) is a type of multiple sclerosis (MS) that affects roughly half of all MS patients. It is characterised by a gradual progression in physical disability, as well as changes in cognitive abilities.
SPMS is often preceded by a period of relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), during which a patient experiences attacks followed by periods of stability. Over time, the attacks become less frequent and the periods of stability become shorter, leading to a steady decline in functionality.
SPMS is a progressive neurological disorder, and as such, there is no cure.
Primary-progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) is a rare form of multiple sclerosis (MS). It is characterised by a steadily worsening neurological condition with no periods of remission or relapse.
Symptoms of PPMS can include muscle weakness, fatigue, cognitive impairment and steady decline in mobility.
Multiple sclerosis can cause a wide range of symptoms, including physical, mental and emotional changes.
Common MS symptoms include:
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help slow down the progression of the disease and reduce the severity of symptoms.
Nobody knows for sure what causes multiple sclerosis, but there are a number of factors that are believed to contribute to its development.
Genetics: There is evidence that genetic factors may increase the risk of developing MS.
Environmental factors: Exposure to certain substances or environments, such as cigarette smoke and certain viruses, may increase the risk for MS.
Autoimmune response: A malfunction in the body’s immune system may lead to an attack on the protective coating of nerve cells, which can cause MS.
Vitamin D deficiency: Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a higher risk for MS.
Smoking: Smoking has been linked to an increased risk for developing MS.
Stress: Stress and emotional distress have been linked to an increased risk of MS.
There is no specific test for diagnosing multiple sclerosis.
Besides, diagnosis of MS can be difficult as many other medical conditions can throw up similar symptoms. That’s why diagnosis of MS involves a combination of medical tests to rule out the other possibilities.
Physical exam: This includes a neurological exam to assess the patient’s muscle and reflex strength, coordination, balance and vision.
MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is used to identify areas of lesions in the brain and spinal cord.
Spinal tap: A procedure where a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is collected for testing.
Blood tests: These tests can be used to check for antibodies associated with the disease, as well as detect other diseases that may have similar symptoms.
Evoked potential tests: These tests measure the electrical activity of the nerve pathways in response to stimuli.
Visual evoked potentials test: This test measures the electrical activity in the brain in response to visual stimuli.
Treatment of multiple sclerosis typically involves a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, physical therapy and psychological support.
Medications: Medications are used to manage symptoms, slow the progression of the disease, and reduce the number of relapses. Common medications include interferon beta-1a, glatiramer acetate, dimethyl fumarate and fingolimod.
Lifestyle: Lifestyle changes like stress management and regular exercise can also help reduce symptoms and improve overall health.
Physical therapy: Physical therapy can strengthen muscles and improve coordination and balance.
Counselling: Psychological support is also important, as it can help manage stress, depression and anxiety.
Can Diet Help Manage Flare-ups of Multiple Sclerosis?
Yes, diet can help manage flare-ups of multiple sclerosis.
The key is to focus on eating foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly those that are known to help reduce inflammation.
This includes foods like dark leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, avocados, lean protein and olive oil.
It is also important to avoid processed foods, trans fats and saturated fats, as these can worsen inflammation.
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Sources: Mayo Clinic, Medical News Today, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, NHS, WebMD, Healthline, National MS Society (1, 2).
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