Anyone recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis will always have many questions about their condition. Sadly while there are many questions there are frequently fewer answers. The most common or most frequently asked questions, FAQ in the jargon, are addressed here, but this, almost certainly, barely scratches the surface.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis is a neurological condition brought about by the degradation of the protective sheath around the nerves of the central nervous system (CNS). This protective sheath known as myelin is attacked by the body's immune system causing areas of damage called plaques or lesions in a process known as demyelination.
What causes Multiple Sclerosis?
There isn't a definitive answer to this. It is thought that there may be a genetic or hereditary element giving rise to a predisposition to the condition. It is also believed that diet and virus' may play a part. A less popular theory is that mercury poisoning could be a major contributor in some patients.
How is Multiple Sclerosis diagnosed?
Usually with difficulty. The symptoms of MS can vary greatly especially in the early stages. It is very difficult for a GP, even one familiar with MS, to associate the early symptoms specifically with multiple sclerosis as these symptoms could have many other possible causes.
Once MS is suspected you will be referred to a Neurologist who will conduct a number of tests designed to test reflexes and other sensory reactions. An MRI scan may be carried out to check for lesions in the brain and a lumbar puncture may give further evidence by detecting certain proteins in the spinal fluid.
None of these tests can confirm a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, they are all just indicators of a possible CNS issue.
What is the cure for Multiple Sclerosis?
There is NO known cure, although there are a number of treatments which may reduce the severity of the symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
There is no straight-forward answer to this. Every multiple sclerosis sufferer will experience different symptoms to differing degrees. Common symptoms are impaired vision, loss of hearing, tiredness, loss of motor control in the arms and/or legs (spasticity) and muscle spasm or cramps and pains.
What treatments are available?
Perhaps the most widely used medication is beta-interferon which can reduce symptoms or delay relapse in the relapse/remitting form of the disease. However, as with many treatments, beta-interferon can have unpleasant side-effects, the most likely being a constant flu-like feeling. Steroids such as prednisolone can accelerate recovery from a relapse. Sildenafil or Viagra can help with erectile dysfunctionality in male sufferers. Chemotherapeutic Agents may help with secondary progressive symptoms. There are many treatments for the many symptoms that may arise. Most treatments do just treat a symptom rather the the condition itself.
Is Multiple Sclerosis contagious?
This is an easy one, The answer is NO, absolutely not.
What will it do to me? What is my prognosis?
Impossible to predict. At best you may suffer minor symptoms which may or may not increase in severity over a number of years. At worst you may become very disabled and end up confined to a wheelchair, or in extreme cases you may be completely bed-bound and wholly reliant on care.
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