The central nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. The nerves throughout the central nervous system are covered and protected by myelin. It is thought that the disease multiple sclerosis is caused by the immune system attacking the central nervous system and damaging the myelin. Myelin is a fatty tissue and when it is damaged by the immune system attack, thick scar tissue is left behind. This appearance of scar tissue can be present at any location throughout the central nervous system and that is why the disease is called multiple sclerosis, it means many scars. When these scars develop, the electrical transmission that travels along the nerve fibers to and from the brain can become interrupted. This interruption can produce symptoms such as numbness and tingling in the extremities or even paralysis and a loss in vision. Because the scarring of the myelin can progress at different rates and at different locations throughout the nervous system, each case of multiple sclerosis can vary from person to person. In some people, the disease will progress slowly over time while others will be in a wheelchair not long after a diagnosis.
The Possibility of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is more common among women and is generally diagnosed between of 20 to 50 years of age. While it is unknown what causes multiple sclerosis, genetics may play a role as a family history of the disease may increase the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Currently, studies are being done to research the effects of viral and bacterial infections in regards to developing multiple sclerosis. Studies that have been done indicate that low levels of vitamin D may also contribute to the occurrence of the disease. Vitamin D is believed to help aid the functioning of the immune system. Typically, the physician specialty in dealing with multiple sclerosis is a neurologist. During an initial visit to a neurologist, a thorough health history will be taken and neurological testing will be done. An MRI can help the neurologist to see the progress of the disease as well as detect the location of the lesions in the brain and also date them. Electro-physiological testing can be done to examine the nerve impulses to help determine how much the impulse pathways have been damaged. A spinal tap may be done to get samples of the cerebro-spinal fluid to test this fluid for antibodies that may be present indicating multiple sclerosis. Although these tests may indicate the possibility of multiple sclerosis, a definite diagnosis is not made until at least two separate changes are noted by MRI or two separate damaged locations within the central nervous system are found. The treatment for multiple sclerosis is pharmaceutical in nature and the goal is to delay or retard the progress of the disease. Certain medications will help to treat specific symptoms due to loss of functioning of various organs. Treatment goals also include faster recovery from attacks and reducing the amount of attacks experienced. It is very important to stay in continued contact with a neurologist to monitor the effects of the medications administered as well as to provide them with any changes or worsening in symptoms.
References Cited in this Article
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