What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS), which consists of the spinal cord and brain. Most people think of only the physical symptoms related to MS. The truth is, MS affects all areas of the brain, not only the portion related to muscle and motor movement. In the course of everyday life, you have little reason to think about how the brain functions. If you are coping with MS, the understanding of the brain becomes very important. As with any injury, knowledge about the affected organs—in this case, the brain and spinal cord—will help you and your family better understand your symptoms and maintain a sense of control over your MS.
Symptoms of MSWith multiple sclerosis (MS), the myelin sheath becomes inflamed, swollen and detached from the fibers. Eventually, the detached myelin is destroyed, and sclerosed (hardened) patches of scar tissue form over the fibers. This scarring causes either short-circuiting or an impeded message. Depending on where the scarring occurs in the nerves in the central nervous system (CNS)- brain or spinal cord- reflects where your problem may occur.
Memory and emotional aspects of MS are usually dismissed as related to stress or aging. The more noticeable signs of MS that bring most people to seek medical help are from localized tingling or numbness, hand or leg weakness, fatigue, dizziness and loss of coordination and balance. As MS gradually progresses and worsens, muscle spasms, slurred speech, vision loss, problems with bladder, bowel or sexual function and paralysis may develop. Overlooked, however, are the mental and mood changes such as forgetfulness, confusion and irritability.
The body’s own defense system attacks myelin- the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a variety of symptoms.
Over the course of the disease some symptoms will come and go, while others will be long lasting. Dr. Diane’s Brain Rehabilitation Program can help you improve any of the following symptoms you may be experiencing from MS:
- Balance & Coordination Problems
- Bladder & Bowel Dysfunction
- Vision Problems Dizziness & Vertigo
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Cognitive Dysfunction
- Emotional Changes
If you are just beginning the process of being aware of your MS, you should know that it is common to feel afraid, as if you’re losing your mind. After all, time has passed since you felt fine. Hopefully, you have found an understanding neurologist. More than likely that person will be concerned with your physical symptoms. It is important, as part of your diagnosis, to have a neuropsychological work-up—a diagnostic process designed to reveal problems with reasoning, memory, and other brain functions—to finally pinpoint the source, or sources, of your difficulties. Once that is accomplished, you will almost certainly feel an overwhelming sense of relief that someone understands what you’ve been going through. This affirmation, along with support from medical professionals, friends, and family, can help to head off many of the debilitating psychological responses to MS.
Early diagnosis is extremely important. With early identification, you can have, to a certain degree, the ability to alter the eventual progress of MS. To a great extent, you will have the tools to be able to cope with it better. With your knowledge and means of coping, you will be more resilient and better able to advocate for yourself. You can best help yourself by understanding the nature of your problems, acknowledging your limitations, and making necessary accommodations at home, school or work.