Since March is considered National Multiple Sclerosis Month, it is important to be informed on how this disease affects so many people every day. MS affects the nervous system, which comprises the brain and spinal cord and controls everything we do. Scientists have yet to find a cause of multiple sclerosis, but we know that it results in the immune system attacking the brain and spinal cord and causing damage to myelin. Myelin is a protective layer around nerve fibers, and the damage disrupts signals to and from the brain. Since the nerve fibers are now unable to communicate with the brain, symptoms such as tingling, memory problems, pain, numbness, fatigue, mood changes, blindness, and/or paralysis may occur.
There are four known stages of MS. Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) is considered the first episode that could lead to a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Although this syndrome does not yet meet the criteria for MS, MRIs have shown that it results in lesions on the brain similar to what occurs during MS. Because of this, CIS increases the chances a person will experience a second episode and possibly a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) is the most common course of multiple sclerosis. It is understood as clearly defined attacks of new or increasing neurological symptoms followed by partial to complete recovery periods. Around 85 percent of people that suffer from MS are initially diagnosed with RRMS. Secondary progressive MS (SPMS) typically follows an initial diagnosis of RRMS. This is diagnosed when there is a progressive worsening of a person’s condition. Further worsening of neurological function may result in a primary progressive MS (PPMS) diagnosis and shows a decrease or stop of remissions as seen in RRMS. Of the people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, 15 percent are diagnosed with PPMS.
Currently, there is not a cure for multiple sclerosis. Most treatment options target increasing recovery times from attacks, managing the symptoms associated with MS, and slowing the progression of the disease. Drugs aimed at reducing nerve inflammation or plasma exchanges have been found to help patients after attacks. Unfortunately, much of the immune response associated with multiple sclerosis only occurs in the early stages. This gives doctors a small time window to diagnose and treat the disease to see the best results. Outside of that window, most treatments will not drop in efficacy rates.
As you can see, there is plenty of research that scientists need to complete regarding multiple sclerosis. Donating your time, energy, and money to fundraising organizations that support this goal is the best way for you to help this cause.