The long and short of it is, MS is a complicated neurological disease that effects the Central Nervous System (CNS): the brain, the spinal cord and the optical nerve. It disrupts the flow of information and can deteriorate neurological function. It is unpredictable and, as such, can be disabling for some and mild for others. No two cases of MS are alike. For more information, please check out the NMSS website (here).
So, who gets Multiple Sclerosis?
- Anyone can develop MS but researchers have identified some patterns. First, more women have MS compared to men. Second, genetics may also play a role. Third, MS is more common in Caucasians of northern European ancestry.
- MS is a completely unpredictable disease of the central nervous system (CNS) including the brain, optic nerves and the spinal cord. And, it has been classified as an autoimmune disease but it may not be.
- Approximately 400,000 Americans have MS, and every week about 200 people are diagnosed. World-wide, MS affects about 2.5 million people. Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not require U.S. physicians to report new cases, and because symptoms can be completely invisible, the numbers can only be estimated.
- People who are diagnosed with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) have had one episode of neurologic damage that is similar to the damage that occures in MS, but they have not yet met the criteria for a definite diagnosis of MS.
- Optic Neuritis is the inflammation of the optic nerve. It can present with a variety of symptoms including: blurred vision, loss of visual acuity, some or all loss of color vision, blindness and pain. Here's a great article that describes it in more detail: Optic Neuritis. Below is an example of what it might look like:
Photo courtesy of mult-sclerosis.org
The MS Info Sheet
Source: "Better Left Unsaid" blog. I can’t find the author of this page, but it was given out in the Second Life MS group by avatar Rain Sunflower.
It is believed roughly 2.5 million people worldwide suffer from Multiple Sclerosis. Some say that number could be as high as 4 million if one takes into account the misdiagnosed and undiagnosed cases. There are approximately 400,00 diagnosed cases of MS in the United States, with an estimated 200 new cases diagnosed every week. MS strikes women twice as often as men, though men seem to progress in the disease faster than women. The average age of diagnosis is 30-40 years old, with symptoms starting between 20-40 years old. Diagnosis is often delayed because of the sporadic, unpredictable nature of the disease. Multiple Sclerosis can effect anyone, of any race, gender, or age.
There is no cure for Multiple Sclerosis.
Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating disease, believed to auto immune in nature, in which our immune system mistakes proteins within the myelin sheath around the brain and spinal cord as an invader to be killed, causing lesions and subsequent scarring where the attacks occur. To better explain the role of myelin, here is a favorite analogy of mine: Picture a plastic coated power cord, now scratch off some of the plastic. It may spark, it may work sometimes but not others, eventually once that exposed wiring rusts it stops working altogether. Now picture that coating is the protective layer of your brain, and your brain is the copper wiring. That is essentially what happens with Multiple Sclerosis.
Once the myelin is worn away, the brain’s signals to the body don’t work correctly. Because of this, virtually any and every part of your body could potentially be effected by the disease. Here are a list of some of the more common symptoms of MS:
- Loss of balance
- Muscle spasms
- Numbness or abnormal sensation in any area
- Problems moving arms or legs
- Problems walking
- Problems with coordination and making small movements
- Tremor in one or more arms or legs
- Weakness in one or more arms or legs
Bowel and bladder symptoms:
- Constipation and stool leakage
- Difficulty beginning to urinate
- Frequent need to urinate
- Strong urge to urinate
- Urine leakage (incontinence)
- Double vision
- Eye discomfort
- Uncontrollable rapid eye movements
- Vision loss (usually affects one eye at a time)
Numbness, tingling, or pain
- Facial pain
- Nerve pain
- Painful muscle spasms
- Tingling, crawling, or burning feeling in the arms and legs
Other brain and nerve symptoms:
- Decreased attention span, poor judgment, and memory loss
- Difficulty reasoning and solving problems
- Depression or feelings of sadness
- Dizziness and balance problems
- Hearing loss
- Problems with erections
- Problems with vaginal lubrication
Speech and swallowing symptoms:
- Slurred or difficult-to-understand speech
- Trouble chewing and swallowing
Fatigue is a common and bothersome symptom as MS progresses. It is often worse in the late afternoon and 70% of MS patients suffer from fatigue.
Statistically speaking, everyone will know at least one person with MS during their lifetime.
It is important to remember that each person’s MS is different.