What is Multiple Sclerosis? What are the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic condition affecting the brain, spinal cord and optical nerve affecting vision, balance, muscles and other basic functions. It occurs when your immune system attacks the fatty tissue, called myelin, designed to protect nerve fibres. The damage done to the myelin results in brain signals not being sent correctly.
MS usually first presents itself between ages 20-40.
What are the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
The symptoms of MS result from the area where the myelin tissue has been damaged. This can include blurred vision, difficulty walking, fatigue, muscle spasms, numbness or tingling, pain and depression.
Symptoms can be mild and require little treatment or can be severe and affect day to day living. In some cases of MS symptoms will come in attacks before relapsing again (known as relapsing-remissive MS) while in others the symptoms progressively get worse over time (primary progressive MS).
Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis
There is currently no cure for MS so treatment options are dependent on symptoms and whether the case of MS is one which is progressively getting worse or is relapsing and remitting.
Treatment of Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
A physical or occupational therapist can be used to help strengthen muscles and help to improve any difficulty walking and in carrying out day to day tasks.
Muscle relaxants (e.g. Baclofen) can be given to help with muscle spasms and where fatigue or other symptoms are an issue, appropriate medication can be given to combat the presenting symptom.
Treatment for an attack of Multiple Sclerosis
Where there is an attack of MS corticosteroids such as oral prednisone can be given to reduce inflammation of the nerves.
A plasma exchange is also an option during an MS attack, particularly where there is no response to steroids. This is where plasma (liquid portion of part of your blood) is removed and separated from your blood cells. The blood cells are mixed with albumin (a protein solution) and put back in your body.
Treatments to prevent progress of Multiple Sclerosis
Treatment will also involve trying to modify the progress of the disease.
For primary progressive MS (the type that gets worse gradually over time) ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) can be used to slow the worsening of the MS.
Where the MS is the relapsing-remitting type there are several medication options available:
Beta interferons are injectable medications for relapsing and remitting MS. Depending on the specific medication they are either subcutaneous or intramuscular and are administered from every other day to weekly
Glatiramer acetate is a subcutaneous injection given every day.
Fingolimod is a once a day capsule taken by mouth to reduce the frequency of symptoms and to delay physical disability.
Teriflunomide is an oral tablet taken once a day for relapsing and remitting MS.
Dimethyl fumarate is a twice daily oral capsule
Mitoxantrone is a chemotherapeutic agent used when relapsing and remitting MS is worsening. It is given by infusion once every three months.
Natalizumab is an intravenous medication used in rapidly progressing MS.
There is ongoing medical research to find better medications and ultimately cure MS.
Alternative treatments for Multiple Sclerosis
People with MS often look to alternative treatments to help ease symptoms. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, yoga, meditation and massage can all help to improve mental and physical health though their effectiveness against MS symptoms in not proven.
Oral cannabis extract has been recommended by the American Academy of Neurology specifically for muscle spasticity and pain only. Their guidelines do not recommend the use of herbal supplements for MS treatment.