What is Multiple Scleroses (MS)? MS is a demyelinating disease in which the myelin sheath (the protective covering of the nerves), is damaged and disrupts information from the brain to the rest of the body. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The exact antigen — or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack — remains unknown, which is why MS is considered by many experts to be “immune-mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”
The cause of MS is still unknown – scientists believe the disease is triggered by as-yet-unidentified environmental factor in a person who is genetically predisposed to respond.
The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease.
It’s often called an invisible disease because many people with MS LOOK normal. But what you don’t know or see is what they may deal with on a daily basis:
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Extreme/ chronic pain
- Vision problems
- Balance issues
- Difficulty walking
- Speech problems
- Bladder dysfunction
- Muscle spasms
- Brain fog
- Sexual dysfunction
Symptoms are unpredictable and can appear at anytime. Can you image the stress and anxiety of knowing you could wake up the next morning facing some level of disability with the onset of each new relapse? Sometimes the relapse symptoms go away or they can remain causing some level of disability, such as vision problems or difficulty walking. This can make it extremely difficult to form or maintain a healthy, lasting relationship, or start a family. It’s a challenge for loved ones to understand the complexity of MS and live with- the day to day unpredictable nature of their spouse’s disease.
It’s also difficult for those with Multiple Sclerosis to find and maintain employment. Symptoms such as chronic fatigue, brain fog, and pain can make it difficult to work a normal schedule. Therefore, many of those with MS eventually have to look at filing for disability. However, the guidelines for receiving funds have become much more stringent and harder to attain. This leaves many of those with MS out of work and dependent on loved ones for financial support.
What are options for treatment? There are many disease modifying drugs approved for Multiple Sclerosis. Make sure to discuss the most appropriate option for you with your health care team.
Medications: The National MS Society reports medications are used in multiple sclerosis (MS) to modify the disease course, treat relapses — also called attacks or exacerbations — and manage symptoms. Along with the other essential components of comprehensive MS care, these medications help people manage their MS and enhance their comfort and quality of life. For more information on medication treatment options : Treatment Options For MS
Diet– Although there is no proven diet to cure MS, many researchers claim that a Paleo-type diet that restricts gluten, and processed foods, helps to reduce relapses by reducing inflammation in the body. www.mercola.com reports that:
Dr. Terry Wahls tells the inspiring story of how she reversed her multiple sclerosis by switching to a Paleo-style diet focused on fresh raw foods, high in specific nutrients needed for proper function of myelin and mitochondria
Essential nutrients for proper mitochondrial function include animal-based omega-3 fats, creatine, and coenzyme Q10, while your myelin needs vitamins B1, B9, B12, omega-3, and iodine
Optimizing your vitamin D levels, which is one of the best things you can do for your health in general, is also one of the best prevention strategies against autoimmune diseases like MS
It’s imperative that those with MS:
- Rest and delegate tasks whenever possible to reduce fatigue
- Make a healthy diet a priority
- Exercise- Make it low impact such as swimming, biking, yoga, pilates. Overheating should be avoided.
- Gather a supportive health care team such as a neurologist, internal medicine physician, and counselor to consult and seek help when needed. Make sure you feel confident the team you select listens and understands the nature of your disease.
The future looks bright for better treatment options for MS and a cure in the future. More and more disease modifying drugs are being approved that are more effective and have fewer side effects.
Stem Cell Research looks promising for a possible treatment or future cure:
One exciting avenue being explored in early stages is the concept of taking samples of a person’s skin cells and turning them into stem cells. These cells are called “induced pluripotent stem cells” or iPSC. The potential advantage of this approach is that it’s possible such cells would not be rejected by the person’s immune system, and this approach bypasses possible ethical concerns connected with human embryonic stem cells.
these stem cells (derived from a person’s own bone marrow or blood) are stored, and the rest of the individual’s immune cells are depleted by chemotherapy or radiation or both. Then the stored stem cells are reintroduced usually by infusion into the vein. The new stem cells migrate to the bone marrow and over time produce new cells. Eventually they repopulate the body with immune cells. The goal of this currently experimental procedure is that the new immune cells will no longer attack myelin or other brain tissue, providing the person, what is hoped to be, a completely new immune system.
For more information on MS: National MS Society