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Multiple Sclerosis

more about Multiple Sclerosis


  • Multiple Sclerosis is a slow and progressive degeneration of the sheath (myelin) that insulates the nerves of the brain and spinal cord.  Myelin helps speed up the electrical impulses (messages) sent by the brain to the rest of the body.  When myelin is damaged (demylination), the electrical impulses are slowed, causing the body functions (i.e., muscle movements, sensation, urination, etc.) to become affected.
  • The age of onset for MS is between 20-40, of which 20% remain stable and have no progression after the first attack.  The remaining 80% of MS sufferers have cycles of relapse after the first attack, followed by periods of remission (disease is stable), with a continuous decline in body functions.

  • Vary from one MS sufferer to another
  • Optic Neuritis (pain or blindness in one eye)
  • Diplopia (Double Vision)
  • Ataxia (poor balance)
  • Sensory symptoms such as numbness, tingling, cold or heat intolerance, or pins and needles under the skin
  • Muscle weakness, stiffness, fatigue, slurred speech, and dropping objects
  • Rubber band-like tightness around the arms and legs
  • Urine or bowel incontinence (inability to control)
  • Inability to perform sexually
  • Depression

  • Autoimmune -- this occurs when the body's own natural defense system (the immune system), which normally uses cells (white blood cells) and Proteins (Antibodies) to destroy cancers, toxic agents, and infections, turns against itself, and, in the case of MS, attacks the myelin sheath.
  • The autoimmune attack may be triggered by an underlying factor, such as an infection (most likely a virus).
  • T-cell abnormality (the white blood cells that attack the myelin sheath) has been noticed in MS.
  • Genetics -- some patients may have defects in the HLA region of one of the chromosomes (where the human genes are located).
  • In identical twins, there is a 30% chance of MS if one of the twins has MS.  If a first degree relative (mother, father, or sibling) has MS, the chance of acquiring MS is 1-3%.
  • Structural -- there may be defects in the normal barriers (a cover like membrane) that protect the brain and spine.
  • Geographic -- there are more MS cases in people who live in higher latitudes (i.e., northern Europe, United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom).  Eskimos and gypsies almost never develop MS.
  • Dietary -- some evidence suggests a diet high in animal fat as the cause.  High fish diets (especially cold water fish) may prevent MS.

  • History of symptoms
  • Physical examination
  • Complete blood count and chemistry (liver and kidney functions) is routine
  • Spinal tap, in which a sample of spinal fluid is taken (using a thin needle that is inserted between the vertebral bones of the spine), reveals an increased number of white blood cells, myelin protein, and IgG antibodies.
  • MRI (uses magnetic energy to take pictures) of the spinal cord, while the brain shows demylinated areas known as plaques
  • Nerve conduction studies in which needles are inserted into or near the nerves, measuring the speed in which electricity travels through the nerves.  In MS, the speed is slowed, due to demylination.

  • Family history of MS
  • Caucasians are at a greater risk of contracting MS than African-Americans.
  • Diet rich in saturated fat and animal products
  • Living in temperate climates (higher altitude)
  • Infections, especially by way of viruses
  • Vaccines (always read vaccine side effects before receiving them)

  • There is no cure at this time.
  • Symptomatic:
    1. Muscle relaxants to decrease spastic reaction and stiffness, such as Baclofen and Valium
    2. To control incontinence, medications such as Imipramine are given.
    3. Depression may be treated with Zoloft or Prozac.
    4. Steroids such as ACTH or Methylprednisone may reduce the duration and severity of attacks or relapses.
    5. New drugs given long term, such as Avonex or Beta-Seron, may decrease myelin destruction.
    6. Other treatments being researched include Oral Myelin, T-cell Vaccine, monoclonal antibodies, stem cell transplant, and many others.
  • Consider:
    1. Physical therapy and exercise.
    2. Avoid hot showers
    3. Try a low saturated fat diet high in fish and low in animal products (beef, pork, and dairy)
    4. Ask your physician for supplements such as flax seed oil, cod liver oil, selenium, eicosapentaenoic and docosahexanoic acids, and vitamin E.

  • Do not loose hope-keep a positive attitude.  Symptomatic treatments work, and modern science is getting closer than ever in finding a cure.  You can get information and help by calling the National Multiple Sclerosis Society at 1-800-344-4867.

more about Multiple Sclerosis

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