What Are The Symptoms Of MS?

Victims of multiple sclerosis are often misdiagnosed because the symptoms vary greatly among sufferers. Also, symptoms from early stages are very different from those in the latter stages. What are the various symptoms and their stages?

There are approximately 1.1 million people worldwide who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis (MS), some 400,000 of them live in the United States. Multiple Sclerosis is a life-long debilitating autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of the patient. Although there is no cure for MS, there are many therapies that seem to reduce the severity of the flare-ups.

Multiple Sclerosis works by disrupting the nerve impulses traveling through the central nervous system. The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord and millions of nerve cells that are joined by nerve fibers. Electrical impulses begin in the various nerve cells through out the body and travel along the nerve fibers until it reaches the brain. The never fibers are encased in myelin, a fatty substance that coats the fibers to protect them.

During flare-ups of Multiple Sclerosis, the myelin becomes swollen and inflamed. When this happens, it then detaches from the nerve fibers. As this continues to occur, the myelin is destroyed and hardened patches (sclerosed) of scar tissue forms. Where this takes place, the area is damaged and prevents or delays the nerve impulses from reaching your brain.

The symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis will vary depending on where the sclerosed areas are in the central nervous system. The early symptoms are often hard to pinpoint so they are often misdiagnosed. A few of the more common symptoms are double or blurred vision, ophthalmic pain or even loss of sight due to an inflammation of the optic nerve, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet and/or weakness in the arms or legs. Victims of Multiple Sclerosis may also suffer from fatigue, dizziness, loss of coordination and balance as well as difficulty walking. The patient may also have dysfunctions with their bladder or bowels. They will often have sexual dysfunctions as well. As these symptoms occur, secondary ones start to appear.

Dysfunctions of the bladder will often lead to chronic urinary infections. Slurred speech, forgetfulness, confusion, and weakness due to lack of musculature use are common occurrences. Postular alignment and control of torso (trunk), loss of bone density as well as difficulty or shallowness of breathing will also begin to occur. As the patient becomes more bedridden, the chances of bedsores also become a concern. Depression is a common problem in all stages of Multiple Sclerosis.

Other possible symptoms are seizures, hearing loss, dysphagia or a difficulty in swallowing, itching, headaches and muscle spasms. As the symptoms seem to start snowballing, all aspects of the patient's life, job, family, relationships and mental outlook are affected.

Multiple Sclerosis if classified into the following five categories:

1. Benign - Although they make up only ten to fifteen percent, some patient's symptoms of the disease don't continue to progress past the mild or moderate. They reach a certain level and don't worsen from that point or lead to permanent disability.

2. Relapsing - On the other hand, eighty-five percent of Multiple Sclerosis patients will begin by having this form of the disease. This category will have periodic flare ups of only one or two every one to three years. These flare ups are the followed by a seeming stage of remission. When a patient has one of these "relapsing" flare-ups, he or she may suffer a combination of any the symptoms listed above. They appear suddenly and can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. After however long they stick around, the symptoms will then gradually disappear. As they appear during the next relapse, the symptoms very often are worse and will continue to worsen with each subsequent relapse.

3. Primary progressive - Approximately ten to fifteen percent of the victims of Multiple Sclerosis will have this category of the disease from the beginning of their disease. Primary progressive is when the symptoms continue to worsen and the condition deteriorates without any times of remission.

4. Secondary progressive - This category of the disease often happens to the relapsing patient after several years. This usually will occur after YEARS of relapsing and at least half of these patients will begin continuously deteriorating.

5. Progressive relapsing - This category of Multiple Sclerosis is rare and accounts for about five percent of the total cases. The differences between progressive relapsing and primary progressive are there are episodes of new symptoms as well as a worsening of the existing ones.

Multiple Sclerosis can affect both men and women although a woman's chances of developing the disease are twice as high as a man's. The onset of symptoms usually (but not always) appear in young adults ages in their twenties and thirties.

There is evidence that the disease can run if families because at least twenty percent of the victims of Multiple Sclerosis have relatives that are also affected. Hereditary doesn't account for all the cases though.

Many theories abound concerning Multiple Sclerosis. Some researchers link it to the human herpes virus 6 while others think certain types of bacteria may be a factor. Still others look at the higher occurrence in women and try to link it to hormonal factors.

All patients of Multiple Sclerosis do not end with complete disability and live fairly normal lives. The ones whose symptoms do continue to progress will be treated symptomatically. Some may be treated with limited corticosteroids while others may receive various types of beta interferons or the drug tizanidine hydrochloride. Other medications will aid with bladder problems, fatigue, muscle spasms and so on.

Researchers are continuing to work towards better treatments and even a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. For those wanting more information on the disease or wanting to make a contribution towards research, they may contact their doctor to find the local chapters of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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