Multiple Sclerosis

Related Terms

  • MS

Uses

Principal Proposed Natural Treatments

  • None

Other Proposed Natural Treatments

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease affecting the fatty sheath that covers nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. This sheath, made of a substance called myelin, normally insulates the nerve fibers, allowing nerve impulses to move swiftly and efficiently between brain, spinal cord, and body. In MS, patchy areas of this insulating material are destroyed and replaced by scar tissue, which results in the slowing or blocking of nerve signals. People with MS may experience symptoms such as blurred vision, muscle weakness and spasticity, difficulty walking, poor coordination, bladder problems, numbness, and fatigue. In its most common form, the disease begins between the ages of 20 and 40 with an initial attack of symptoms followed by partial or complete remission. Further attacks usually follow and can eventually lead to progressive disability. Another form of the disease progresses more quickly. Although the cause of MS isn't known for sure, scientists generally assume that MS is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the body's own myelin cells. Scientists theorize that something, perhaps a toxin or virus, triggers this autoimmune response in susceptible people. Not everyone appears to be equally susceptible. Gene studies suggest that genetics plays a role in who gets the disease, but other factors seem to be important as well. For example, MS tends to be more common the farther one goes from the equator. 1 The disease is also more prevalent in societies with greater dietary intake of meat and animal fat, lower intake of unsaturated fats compared to saturated fats, and lower intake of fish. 2-4 Not everyone agrees that all of these factors actually contribute to the disease. Some factors may simply be statistically associated with the actual cause. There is no cure as yet for MS, but several new drugs—including two forms of the substance interferon ( Avonex and Betaseron), and an unrelated drug, glatiramer acetate (Copaxone)—appear able to reduce the frequency of relapses in people with certain forms of MS and slow the rate of progression of the disease. Other medications reduce the severity of acute attacks or treat specific symptoms such as muscle spasticity.

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