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Multiple Sclerosis

January 3, 2010

Multiple Sclerosis

Because I write about Multiple Sclerosis quite often and receive a lot of questions about it I figured I would post an explanation of the disease for my BTA Writer’s Choice write. As many of you already know I suffer from MS and it as well as it’s symptoms and so this is an important subject for me. A lot of this entry will just be facts but I will be sharing a little of my story along the way.

What is MS?

Multiple Sclerosis or MS is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord resulting in loss of muscle control, vision, balance, and sensation (such as numbness). With MS, the nerves of the brain and spinal cord are damaged by one's own immune system. Thus, the condition is called an autoimmune disease.

For me I lost the feeling in my hands about five years ago. I can feel pressure but sensations are difficult. It is like wearing thick winter gloves all the time! You would be surprised how many things you miss when your sense of touch goes. Knowing I had MS I prepared. I learned a little about Brail in case I went Blind and Signing in case I went deaf, but never was I prepared for losing my sense of touch.

Autoimmune diseases are those whereby the body's immune system, which normally targets and destroys substances foreign to the body such as bacteria, mistakenly attacks normal tissues. In MS, the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord, the two components of the central nervous system.

It took a few Exacerbations (Attacks) to fully realize what this meant. Knowing I was ill I tried to do everything I could to feel better. I took ever vitamin and Immune Booster on the market. BAD NEWS! No one ever told me that Immune Boosters and vitamin’s like Zinc were a trigger for most MS patients! Raising your immunity when it is already overactive makes for a horrific result! That is when I started having a bigger part in my healthcare.

The central nervous system is made up of nerves that act as the body's messenger system. Each nerve is covered by a fatty substance called myelin, which insulates the nerves and helps in the transmission of nerve impulses, or messages, between the brain and other parts of the body. These messages control muscle movements, such as walking and talking.

MS gets its name from the buildup of scar tissue (sclerosis) in the brain and/or spinal cord. The scar tissue or plaques form when the protective and insulating myelin covering the nerves is destroyed, a process called demyelination. Without the myelin, electrical signals transmitted throughout the brain and spinal cord are disrupted or halted. The brain then becomes unable to send and to receive messages. It is this breakdown of communication that causes the symptoms of MS.

Although the nerves can regain myelin, this process is not fast enough to outpace the deterioration that occurs in MS. The types of symptoms, severity of symptoms, and the course of MS vary widely, partly due to the location of the scar tissue and the extent of demyelination.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the condition affects approximately 400,000 Americans and is, with the exception of trauma, the most frequent cause of neurological disability beginning in early to middle adulthood. I was diagnosed Jauary 29th, 2004. I was age 30.

Along time ago as a child I had a psychic tell me I would die at age 30. I was convinced it was true and lived like their was no tomorrow. Funny how we take things so literally sometimes.

MS is two to three times as common in females as in males and its occurrence is unusual before adolescence. It is however becoming more common with better detection technologies that are being discovered. A person has an increased risk of developing the disease from the teen years to age 50 with the risk gradually declining thereafter.

What Causes MS?

No one is sure what causes the body's immune system to go awry. Some scientists believe that it is a combination of genetics and something in the environment to which the person was exposed to early in life.

I never knew my biological father. You will see me posting things about him randomly in my efforts to find him. I was never warned that he had this disease in his family. It was only after my diagnosis that my mother told me of his family health history. I guess not knowing my real dad I still carry a piece of him with me. As far as I know he was never diagnosed with MS but many of his family were. It is known now that it is more likely to come from a fathers side then mothers. Thanks a lot dad!

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms vary from person to person and can change over time in the same person. The most common early symptoms include:

•    Muscle weakness
•    Decreased coordination
•    Blurred or hazy vision
•    Eye pain
•    Double vision

My most prominent first symptom was my eyes. I developed Optic Neuritis causing a loss of vision and severe pain. I dealt with it for along time and didn’t go to the hospital until one day my hands felt they were melting through the keyboard. The first hospital I went to told me I was having an Anxiety Attack and sent me home with instructions to breathe into a paper bag! It didn’t take long for the second hospital to recognize what was really going on.

As the disease progresses, symptoms may include muscle stiffness (spasticity), pain, difficulty controlling urination or problems with cognition. I have all of this now. This is a good excuse for when my Comments and Blogs are off… LOL!

How Is MS Diagnosed?

Making the diagnosis of MS isn't easy because the symptoms are vague and often fleeting. Factors that a health professional considers are:

•    Two or more isolated episodes of symptoms that could be caused by MS. The episodes must last at least 24 hours and occur a month apart.

•    MRI test showing the areas of demyelination (lesions)

There are other tests that a health professional may perform.

I was rather lucky when it came to my diagnosis. Just so happened that the intern in the ER the night I went in was a guy I had been talking to on a social network called Hot or Not?. He pulled me aside and told me what I had and that the other Doctors were not going to tell me because they had not gathered enough info. The next day I made an appointment with a neurologist and he too refused to give me a diagnosis without cutting me open!

That was it! I was determined to get a diagnosis then. I made yet another trip to another doctor where instead of saying “I need a diagnosis” I simply said “I have MS and need treatment”. I got an MRI and a diagnosis that day!

How Is MS Treated?

There are a variety of medications available that can reduce the frequency and severity of MS symptoms in some people with MS. Some drugs can also slow the progression of certain types of MS. The problem I have with many of these medications are while available in the United States they are outlawed in most other countries! They only work 50% of the time and often cause a reduced life span

Because of this I have resorted to Bee Venom Therapy. It has been a savior for me. When I started it I was in a wheel chair and now I parade around in heels! LOL!

Thanks a lot for learning about MS. Remember that it is very important that we support research efforts with technologies such as Stem Cell Research so we can one day find a cure for this debilitating disease.

MS Awareness Week
March  2nd – 8th

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