Multiple Sclerosis, also referred to as MS, is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system – which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. No one, suffering from MS, has the exact same experience as another person. Symptoms can be mild such as numbness in limbs or severe such as paralysis or loss of vision.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for MS. However, the new treatments and advances in research are providing a lot more hope and comfort to those suffering from the illness.
MS is a disease of the immune system. Myelin, which is the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system, is damaged; in addition to the nerve fibers themselves. The damaged myelin form scar tissue. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing the variety of symptoms that occur.
There are four courses of MS:
Approximately 85% of people are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS. People with this type of MS experience defined attacks of worsening neurologic function. These attacks—which are called relapses, flare-ups, or exacerbations —are followed by partial or complete recovery periods. During these recovery periods, also known as remission, the disease does not progress.
Approximately 10% of people are diagnosed with primary-progressive MS. This course does not have any relapses or remissions because it is characterized as consistent and worsens the neurologic function from the beginning. There will be times when the progression is excessive and other times when it plateaus.
Approximately 50% of people with Relapsing-Remitting MS develop this course within 10 years. Many people develop a secondary-progressive disease course in which the disease worsens more steadily, with or without occasional flare-ups, minor remissions, or plateaus.
Only about 5% of people are diagnosed with Progressive-Relapsing MS. This course is more aggressive and is steadily bad from the beginning. People may or may not experience some recovery following these relapses, but the disease continues to progress without remissions.
Since there is no exact experience from patients, many doctors go back and forth between the four courses when diagnosing MS. It is important to take all precautions and make the effort to stay physically and emotionally fit to help relieve MS symptoms.