This week is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. In our Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold, we discussed the condition that can have a devastating effect on a person’s ability to function.
Meghan Kulig: Let's start by discussing a little background on multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Arnold: Multiple sclerosis, or MS, affects a patient's central nervous system by damaging myelin, which insulates nerve fibers. When this damage occurs, it disrupts the nerve cell's ability to function normally.
Meghan Kulig: What causes it?
Dr. Arnold: The medical community isn't certain, but it is thought to be possibly related to an abnormal response of the body's immune system, which then harms the body's own tissue. It is not contagious. Environmental factors or genetics may influence who gets multiple sclerosis, but more research is needed to learn why certain people are affected.
Meghan Kulig: Who commonly gets multiple sclerosis?
Dr. Arnold: Most commonly it occurs in young adults in their twenties and thirties, frequently women. More than 2 million people world-wide are affected by multiple sclerosis.
Meghan Kulig: What are some common symptoms?
Dr. Arnold: Since the disease can affect the brain and spinal cord, many different functions may be affected. Some common symptoms are muscle weakness, problems with vision, numbness or tingling in extremities, fatigue, and trouble with speech. Symptoms can vary between people and change over time in the same individual.
Meghan Kulig: How is this disease diagnosed?
Dr. Arnold: Doctors may use a combination of history, exam, and tests like an MRI or a sample of spinal fluid. They may also do a test to measure transmission along nerve pathways. It can be a difficult disease to diagnose, and many tests over a period of time may be needed for a definite diagnosis.
Meghan Kulig: Is there a cure?
Dr. Arnold: There is currently no cure, but there are medications that can help manage symptoms. Some patients are affected to the point where they have serious symptoms, such as being unable to walk. The good news is that some patients have only mild symptoms and overall do very well.