Although most people have heard the term MS, you would be surprised how many people still ask: What is MS? Unless you have a friend or family member that has been diagnosed there is no real reason to meditate on the subject. It is generally acknowledged as a nasty disease, but few understand how complex and debilitating it can be to live with. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS), the nerves that make up the brain and spinal cord. In the most simple terms, the body’s immune system when operating efficiently fights off germs and what it perceives as other foreign materials that would otherwise cause a person to become sick, in some way it becomes confused into mistaking portions of the person’s own body as foreign matter. The immune system consequently begins attacking and damaging these healthy tissues. With MS, these are in the nervous system. They are particularly focused on destruction of Myelin, a fatty insulation that covers the nerve fibers. When this occurs, axons (the components of the nerve cells which conduct impulses to other cells) lose their ability to function efficiently. Myelin is to nerves what insulation is to electrical wires. Consequently as the Myelin is slowly destroyed messages cannot travel as effectively along the nerves and the entire central nervous system becomes compromised.
THE NERVOUS SYSTEM: THE COMMUNICATION AND CONTROL CENTER OF THE BODY
The nervous system can be considered the control and communication system of the body. Signals from the brain (the control branch of the nervous system) are carried via the nerves (the communications lines) to the rest of the body. These are collated in order to direct conscious movement for example: talking, walking, retrieving objects and other dextrous tasks, as well as vital life functions that include breathing and heartbeat. The nervous system also interprets other inputs from the body’s numerous data-gathering organs. These include nose, eyes, ears and tongue. Also nerve-endings in the skin that detect sensations such as touch, heat pain and cold and additionaly sensors within the body that detect balance, position and so on and carries all of this data back to the brain to process. MS can affect many of these functions – and each person has their very own version of the disease. No two are completely alike. http://www.msif.org/about-ms/symptoms-of-ms/
When the immune system attacks the myelin around several or many nerve cells, it leaves scar tissue, known as sclerosis that gives the disease its name (multiple scars). This scar tissue does not insulate the nerve anywhere near as well as a healthy intact layer of myelin would, and so the damaged nerve begins to lose signals passed to it, leading to communication breakdowns. The type, duration and severity of the disease depends on the type of MS. It also varies depending on the person, which can make it difficult for a doctor to determine the type and predict its course. Eventually most people encounter problems with mobility. The effects on mobility are calculated using the EDSS scale: http://www.hsctstopsms.com/edss-2/
HOW THE NERVOUS SYSTEM DEALS WITH THESE ATTACKS
Depending on where in the nervous system multiple areas of damage are located, many types of signal paths can be impacted. This explains the wide array of symptoms that can be seen in people with MS. if for instance an exacerbation causes damage to the myelin of nerve cells directly linked to the muscles of a person’s leg, difficulty could be experienced controlling the leg. Equally it could result in partial or total paralysis.
If the exacerbation causes damage to the myelin of the optic nerves ( nerves that carry signals from the eyes to the brain), that person could experience blurry or dramatically decreased vision. http://www.msfocus.org/article-details.aspx?articleID=380 Frequently an MS patient experiences remissions. These are periods of decreased or possibly total absence of symptoms which can continue for several months. Unfortunately eventually, another exacerbation occurs. The symptoms either return or newer ones are identified, as different areas of the nervous system come under attack. Accumulating damage can leave the the patient a little more disabled after each new attack.
This is followed by secondary symptoms that result from the build up of damage caused directly by the disease. An example of this is , if there is permanent damage to the nerves that control a person’s leg, use of that leg can be lost completely. The muscles of the leg then begin to atrophy (waste away) due to lack of use.
ISSUES RESULTING FROM MYELIN DETERIORATION
An MS patient consequently becomes victim to a host of related issues. These can include:
PROBLEMS INVOLVED WITH SENSE AND TOUCH
ISSUES WITH MUSCLE CONTROL
VISION AND HEARING PROBLEMS
BALANCE AND COORDINATION ISSUES
ELIMINATION PROBLEMS – URINATION AND BOWEL ISSUES
BRAIN ISSUES – SPEECH, COGNITIVE AND MEMORY AMONGST OTHERS.