Multiple Sclerosis – What is it
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects your brain, spinal cord, and nerves. It is an autoimmune disease in which the person’s immune system attacks the covering of nerves (myelin sheath). When this covering (myelin sheath) of nerves is damaged, the signals (sensory and motor) transmission within the body are affected.
There are four types of Multiple Sclerosis.
- Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RPMS)
- Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS)
- Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS)
- Progressive Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis (PRMS)
The symptoms can occur depending on the affected structure and the type and course of the disease. It can range from mild muscles weakness to paralysis. The most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis are as follows.
- Visual problems
- Sensory disturbances
- Muscles weakness
- Balance and Gait problems
- Speech problems
- Swallowing problems
- Urination and defecation problems
- Sexual problems
Let’s have a look at the common symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis one by one.
Fatigue is a common symptom of Multiple Sclerosis. A person having MS would have an overall feeling of tiredness or lack of energy. Performing tasks, even the minor ones, can make the affected individual short of breath. Pain and body aches can also accompany the fatigue.
Visual problems occur when the disease affects the optic nerve, which is responsible for controlling vision. Visual problems can also arise when the occipital lobe of the brain is affected. This area receives the sensory input of vision.
The problems that can occur vary from person to person. It can be double vision (diplopia), blurred vision, partial loss of vision, or complete vision loss. Repetitive and uncontrolled eye movements (Nystagmus) can also occur due to Multiple Sclerosis.
Our body is able to sense different things because of sensory nerves. These nerves carry the sensory signals from your body to the brain’s sensory cortex, and that’s how you can sense touch, pressure, vibration, etc.
As Multiple Sclerosis affects the covering of nerves, signal transmission speed is affected, and some sensory disturbances are also seen. The patient may feel numbness, tingling sensations in their hands, arms, legs, feet, etc. Abnormal sensations (paresthesia) are also common symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.
As mentioned above, Multiple Sclerosis affects the nerves in your body. When the nerves controlling the sensory function are affected, sensory disturbances are seen. Similarly, when the nerves controlling the muscles (motor nerves) are affected, it leads to muscles weakness.
It can involve your foot muscles, leg muscles, hip muscles, arm muscles, upper body muscles, etc., depending upon the affected nerves. Weakness in muscles can lead to problems with performing daily activities and ambulation.
If the damage to the nerves is severe, it can lead to muscles paralysis—the paralysis of muscles controlling the upward movement of the foot results in Foot Drop.
Another common symptom of Multiple Sclerosis is “Dizziness.” The affected individual may feel a range of sensations, such as feeling faint, weak, or unsteady.
It sometimes creates the false sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving. This condition is sometimes called “vertigo.”
Pain is the most common symptom of Multiple Sclerosis. Pain is an unpleasant sensation that is sensed by the sensory nerves and perceived by the brain. As this disease affects the neurons (basic structure of the nervous system), the whole of the nervous system is affected.
The intensity of pain can vary from mild to extreme. Painful sensations can be accompanied by numbness and tingling sensations. The intensity of pain is also related to the type and course of the disease.
Balance and Gait Problems
The balance of the patients with Multiple Sclerosis is also affected. It can either be due to decreased muscles strength of legs or damage to centers in the brain responsible for balance control. The body’s muscles may get excessively tight (spasticity). Impaired gait (ataxia) is also typical in Multiple Sclerosis patients.
Problems in speech result when the nerves controlling the articulation muscles are affected. Speech problems can be due to damage to speech centers present in the brain. It can cause slurred speech (dysarthria) or absence of speech (aphasia).
Muscles are responsible for swallowing food. When the nerves controlling these muscles are affected, swallowing becomes difficult. This condition is called Dysphagia. It can affect eating habits of the patient.
Urination and Defecation Problems
Voluntary control of urination and defecation is lost in patients with advanced Multiple Sclerosis. This happens because of damage to the nerves responsible for controlling urination and defecation. This can result in leakage of urine (dribbling), urinary incontinence, and fecal incontinence.
Decreased sexual desire (libido) and erection problems are also symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. This again is due to the damage to the neurons in the patient’s body.
Cognitive and Psychological Problems
As mentioned before, Multiple Sclerosis affects the brain also. This can result in several cognitive and psychological problems. Common mental and psychological symptoms that are seen in Multiple Sclerosis patients are short-term memory deficits, diminished executive function, diminished attention or concentration, etc. Anxiety and depression can also be present depending upon the type and course of the disease.
TIPS OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS PATIENTS
Here are some essential tips for Multiple Sclerosis patients that they can follow for taking care of their body.
- Try to have a balanced diet. According to researches, eating a low-fat and vitamin-rich diet can benefit people with multiple sclerosis. Eating a healthy diet can help to maximize your energy levels and support your bowel and bladder movement.
- Perform regular exercises. Walking for 20-30 minutes can improve a Multiple Sclerosis patient’s gait and balance.
- Avoid heat. People with MS should avoid taking hot baths and going out in hot weather. Patients should also wear cooling collars when exercising.
- Stay connected to your friends and family. Socializing can decrease many of the tensions and worries. Friends and family can support the patients in their hard times. This helps to reduce stress and anxiety.