Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediated disease that is known to affect the central nervous system, including the optic nerve, the brain and the spinal cord. Despite the fact that the disease mostly manifests itself in young adulthood, the disorder is known to make its initial appearance after the age of sixty and in early childhood. Currently, the disease is an incurable one, and it sticks with the patient for a long time. The most affected area of the brain is the optic nerves. The disease is chronic, however, it does not disable the patient.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis
There are four types of multiple sclerosis, including: relapsing-remitting, secondary progressive, progressive-relapsing, and primary-progressive.
Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis – This condition is characterized by acute attacks that are known to last days to weeks. A large number of Australians with Multiple Sclerosis receive an early diagnosis of relapsing-remitting. This condition is defined by positive periods of relapses, accompanied by remitting of symptoms.
However, the symptoms do not disappear completely. Actually, the affected individuals may return to the level they were initially before the relapse occurred, or they remain with some remaining damage from the relapse. Whether or not deficits remain after the attacks are experienced, the periods between the attacks are defined by stability and absence of disease progression.
Primary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis – This condition is defined by gradual progression of disability from onset. The gradual progression from onset is without any remissions. Nevertheless, many Australian patients experience variable periods of actual stability. Most Australians who are diagnosed with primary-progressive MS start to notice that they are facing issues with walking, which with time, worsens. Primary-Progressive MS is utilized when one starts with progression instead of relapses.
Secondary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis – It starts with a relapsing remitting course, which after a while it turns into more consistently progressive development. It is possible that some Australians receive an early diagnosis of secondary progressive MS because the relapses that they had in the past passed undiagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis.
Although it is difficult to foresee with certainty which Australians living with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis will go on to develop Secondary Progressive MS. There are specific factors that make the progression more likely, however, not certain. The factors include: living with Multiple Sclerosis for five to twenty years; diagnosis conducted at an age above forty years; and the male gender.
Progressive-Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis – This condition shows progression in disability level from the onset of the disease. However, with clear as well as acute relapses that may or may not present some recovery. Peculiarly, the condition can be subtle at first in such a way that it may take a number of years to reach diagnosis.
Stages of Multiple Sclerosis
In Multiple Sclerosis, sections of inflammation and swelling advance, which can be established as white dots on multiple sclerosis scans. The abnormal sections are called plaques. When they lead to major symptoms, they are referred to as relapses.
The relapses lead to short-term disability. Then, the extent of recovery for the patient relies on the success of the body’s repair systems. Multiple sclerosis is a two-stage illness, including: inflammation and relapses. Multiple sclerosis causes inflamed areas, which leads to the stripping of the myelin from the nerves surface (demyelination). Inflammation also leads to complete severing of a nerve, resulting into numbness.
What are the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
Management of Multiple Sclerosis has changed significantly over the years, due to the new agents that have emerged over the years. This makes the symptoms of the disease vary and become unpredictable. It depends very much on which portion of the central nervous system is affected and to what degree. The most common stage of the disease is the relapsing-remitting, which presents severe symptoms that can improve with time. The most important part of surviving Multiple Sclerosis is to learn how to go about managing the varied symptoms.
The fact that Multiple Sclerosis is associated with inflammation and demyelination all over the central nervous system makes the possible list of symptoms rather long. However, most Australians with this dissease may not experience all the symptoms. Probable symptoms range from mild to severe ones including:
Abnormal Sensation: In many cases, Australians with Multiple Sclerosis experience sensory symptoms. Over a quarter of Australian MS cases undergo abnormal sensation in the legs and/or arms in the initial stage. Sensory symptoms emerge due to lesions in several sensory tracts of the spinal cord, including those linked to light touch, pain, vibration, and temperature. These distorted sensations are usually referred to as tightness, numbness, extreme heat/cold, and pins and needles. Another common sign associated with abnormal sensation is a strong itching sensation.
Visual problems: These are the second most common symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. The prevalent eye problem in MS is the inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis). Optic neuritis starts with pain in one eye, and worsens as the eye moves. Loss of vision follows the eye pain, which involve spots or missing portions within the visual field. In distinctive optic neuritis, losses are concentrated in the central area of the visual field. Optic neuritis in Australians with Multiple Sclerosis normally involves just one eye.
Weakness, along with other motor symptoms: Acute and subacute movement of muscles problems are the symptoms of a good number of MS cases in Australia. Multiple Sclerosis lesions in the cerebral cortex of the brain and the spinal cord cause a number of motor symptoms. These symptoms in more advanced stages will require the patient with Multiple Sclerosis to use a wheelchair, and come up with other accommodations in order to meet mobility needs. Weakness manifests itself mainly in the legs and arms. In due course, muscles in the lower legs are known to shrink in size as they weaken. This renders the patient physically sedentary and inactive.
Fatigue: Australians with Multiple Sclerosis experience complete fatigue, which is not related to their muscle movement function or any other MS symptoms. Statistically, up to 80% of Australians with MS are known to report fatigue cases at one point in time. Multiple Sclerosis fatigue is known to be consuming, thus, preventing the patient from working and caring for him or herself.
Other symptoms that are expected include: bowel and bladder changes, problems with speech and swallowing, sexual problems, pain and other sensory changes, problems with thinking and memory, and mood changes. Each of the stated symptoms could be a first sign of Multiple Sclerosis, and the challenge for Australians is that there is no way to tell which symptoms will occur, how long they will occur, and how severe they will be.
1. What is multiple sclerosis: http://www.biogenidec.com.au/what_is_multiple_sclerosis.aspx?ID=11088
2. Four different ‘courses’ of Multiple Sclerosis: http://www.unimelb.edu.au/accessibility/guide/multiple-sclerosis-2.htm
3. Multiple sclerosis explained: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Multiple_sclerosis_explained
4. What is MS?: http://msqld.org.au/about-ms/what-is-ms