What is Multiple Sclerosis?
- Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). In MS, the immune system attacks the protective layer, also known as myelin, that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. The disease can potentially cause the nerves to deteriorate and/or become permanently damaged.
Who is impacted?
- It isn’t clear the reason why Multiple Sclerosis develops in some people and not others. Genetics and environmental factors play a role in the development of MS in these patients.
- Some risk factors that may increase risk of developing MS:
- Age (range between ages 15 to 60)
- Female Gender
- Family History
- Certain infections such as Epstein-Barr virus, and those that cause mononucleosis
- Race (white people, especially those of Northern European descent have the highest risk of developing MS whereas Asian, African or Native Americans have the lowest risk.
- Climate (people in areas with temperate climates such as Canada, northern US, New Zealand, SE Australia and Europe have higher risk of developing MS)
- Certain autoimmune diseases (higher risk of developing MS if you have thyroid, type 1 diabetes or IBD)
How is Multiple Sclerosis diagnosed?
- There is no specific test for the diagnosis of MS. A diagnosis of MS is reflective off of ruling out other conditions that may present similar signs and symptoms. It is typically started out with a detailed medical history and examination followed by:
- Blood tests
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
- Evoked potential tests
How is Multiple Sclerosis treated?
- There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. Treatment of MS is mostly focused on recovering from attacks, slowing the progression of the disease and managing MS symptoms. Some patients with mild symptoms may not even require treatment.
- Treatment Classes
- Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis)
- Disease-modifying therapies