Multiple SclerosisCondition Introduction
Receiving a medical diagnosis, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), may be overwhelming and scary. Learning about the condition and how to cope with it can make it more manageable.
MS is an autoimmune condition. Autoimmune conditions happen when the body mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells, causing damage. In MS, the body attacks the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves found in the eye (optic nerves). Within the CNS, the myelin sheath covers nerve cells and fibers that send messages between the brain and spinal cord, and the rest of the body. The myelin sheath can become damaged, exposing and further damaging the nerves. This damage is what produces multiple symptoms unique to each course of the disease.
There are three different disease courses patients typically experience:
Relapsing-remitting: The most common form of MS. There are very clear attacks on the body (commonly called relapses or flare-ups), followed by periods with no symptoms, or remission.
Primary-progressive: No significant flare-ups or relapses. Instead, the symptoms of MS slowly continue to get worse over time.
Secondary-progressive: Most patients who are diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting MS will go on to develop this form of MS. In this phase, there are fewer significant relapses but a slower buildup of symptoms over time.
How Multiple Sclerosis Affects the Body
1. Brain: MS causes changes in the brain that can result in difficulty thinking, confusion and forgetfulness. Emotions can also be affected. Many people with MS may suffer from depression as well as other emotional changes.
2. Eyes: For many, one of the first symptoms of MS is eye problems. These problems may include blurred or double vision, eye pain, and the inability to distinguish an object from its background.
3. Difficulty swallowing: Damage to nerves controlling muscles in the mouth and throat may cause swallowing issues. This can lead to other problems, like coughing, choking and food/saliva aspiration.
4. Muscles: Widespread nerve damage in muscles may lead to muscle weakness, the inability to walk, lack of coordination, and muscle spasticity.
5. Lungs: Nerve damage to chest muscles may cause breathing difficulties, resulting in pain, fatigue and inflammation.
6. Heart: Women with MS are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease.
7. Bladder/Bowel: Due to nerve damage, many people with MS may have weak bladder and bowel control. Constipation may be a problem as well.
8. Sexual dysfunction: The ability to become aroused may be more difficult for those with MS due to contributing MS symptoms. These include depression, fatigue and muscle spasticity.
9. Nerves: Nerve damage, caused by harm to the myelin sheath and nerve fibers, make it more difficult for messages to be sent around the body. This can cause many problems, including lack of coordination, balance issues, numbness, and tingling.
10. Bones: Inactivity, certain medications, or a poor diet may eventually lead to osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle.
To better understand Multiple Sclerosis, your symptoms, and how nutrition is affected, see the table below for more details.