Multiple Sclerosis is a difficult and frustrating disease. Frustrating because researchers and experts are still unsure as to what causes the disease and how it can best be treated. In this article, we will go over what we do know about multiple sclerosis, how it’s diagnosed, and what factors researchers believe play a role in the development of the disease.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (commonly referred to as MS) is a disabling disease of the central nervous system. In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves. Recognizing some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis early can help you or a loved one get the treatment needed. Here are some of the symptoms:
- Numbness or weakness in the limbs. This numbness occurs on one side of your body at a time
- Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements
- Tremor or lack of coordination
- Blurry vision or other vision problems
- Slurred speech
You should see a doctor as soon as you can if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above.
How is MS Diagnosed?
As of right now, there are no specific tests for MS. Instead, a doctor will rule out several other conditions that share similar symptoms before coming to a conclusion that it may be MS. Before making a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, your doctor will start with a thorough medical history and examination. Then, multiple sclerosis prognosis your doctor may recommend some of the following treatment options:
- Blood tests - These blood tests help rule out other diseases that share similar symptoms with MS
- Spinal tap - A small sample of cerebrospinal fluid is removed from your spinal canal for laboratory analysis. This sample can show abnormalities in antibodies that are associated with MS. A spinal tap can also help rule out infections and other conditions with symptoms similar to MS
- Diagnosing MS with MRI - This allows doctors to look for MS lesions on your brain and spinal cord
- Evoked potential tests - These tests record the electrical signals produced by your nervous system in response to stimuli
It’s important to note that MS can occur at any age. There is no real average age of MS diagnosis but onset usually occurs around 20 and 40 years of age. Keep in mind, younger and older people can be affected just the same.
What are the Stages of MS?
The stages of MS progression vary from person to person. No one’s experience with the disease will be the same. The way the disease progresses over time will also vary depending on the types of MS. There are three different types of the disease:
- Relapsing-remitting MS - People with this type have attacks when their symptoms get worse, called relapses, followed by full, partial, or no recovery. These flares seem to change over several days to weeks. Recovery from an attack takes weeks, sometimes months, but symptoms don’t get worse during this time. Most people have this type when they’re first diagnosed with MS
- Secondary-progressive MS - People who get this type usually start with relapsing-remitting MS. Over time, symptoms stop coming and going and begin getting steadily worse. The change may happen shortly after MS symptoms appear, or it may take years or decades
- Primary-progressive MS - In this type, symptoms gradually get worse without any obvious relapses or remissions. About 15% of all people with MS have this form, but it’s the most common type for people diagnosed after age 40
Again, the beginning stages of MS will vary depending on what type of MS you have.
What Are the Final Stages of Multiple Sclerosis?
Again, since there are different types of MS, it can be difficult to predict the final stages of multiple sclerosis. However, as the disease progresses, similar symptoms can be expected across all of those who have received a diagnosis. Before the final stages, some may experience milder symptoms such as muscle and nerve pain. More serious symptoms may develop such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Limited mobility/paralysis
- Speech complications
- Severe muscle pain
- Mood swings
Many who pass away due to complications caused by multiple sclerosis do so as a result of respiratory issues, although every individual with multiple sclerosis has a unique experience. Although the symptoms can become severe, hospice care can help keep the symptoms to a more tolerable level
What Are the Risk Factors of MS?
Unfortunately, most doctors and researchers are unsure as to the exact cause behind MS. With that being said, there is increasing evidence suggesting that numerous factors may increase the risk of developing the disease. Some of those common risk factors include:
- A family history of MS - It’s not considered a hereditary disorder, but studies have shown that having immediate relatives with MS may increase your risk
- Viruses - Viruses such as the Epstein-Barr virus and human herpesvirus 6 can increase the likelihood of MS
- Smoking - Studies have found that smokers are 1.5 times more likely to develop MS than nonsmokers
- Obesity - Studies have also found that those who are obese are at risk of developing MS
- Environmental factors - Things such as climate are believed to be risk factors for MS
- Demographic factors - Age, sex, and race may all increase the risk of developing the disease. For example, women are twice as likely as men to develop the conditions. The disease is also more common among people of Northern European descent
It is important to note that some risk factors such as smoking and obesity can be avoided by making appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes.
Is MS Genetic or Hereditary?
As mentioned before, MS isn’t believed to be hereditary. However, there is research that points to MS being a bigger risk if you have someone in your family who has been previously diagnosed with the disease. For example, the chance of a sibling or child of someone with MS also developing it is estimated around 2-3%, which is higher than normal.
Researchers are hopeful that sometime in the near future they can develop a better understanding of what exactly causes MS. More importantly, they’re hopeful that developing a better understanding of the disease can help them find ways to prevent the disease from developing. Since so little is known about the disease, treatment options can be rather slim, with most treatment options designed to help with symptoms.
Supplements Can Help
Researchers aren’t sure how you can prevent MS. However, they do believe that living a healthy life can deter the disease. One supplement that can help promote a healthy lifestyle is spermidine. This is because spermidine helps induce something called autophagy. This is the body’s process of replacing old and potentially damaged cell parts with newer, healthier ones. Autophagy literally means ‘self-eat.’
This process helps keep you feeling and looking young while also dramatically lowering your chances of developing aging diseases such as Parkison’s and Alzheimer’s. While it is possible to get your recommended daily intake of spermidine through your diet, it’s recommended to take supplements so you ensure you get the right dose. Simply taking your supplements with your dinner is a great way to remember to take spermidine supplements every night.