Detecting Multiple Sclerosis
Like many conditions, the early signs of Multiple Sclerosis (also known as MS) can vary greatly from person to person and at different stages of the complicated disease. Oftentimes, people with MS experience bouts of highs and lows, also known as relapse-remitting MS. These patients may undergo periods of time when new symptoms appear over a course of a few days or weeks, while others disappear, only to recur at regular or irregular intervals. The characteristics of these signs can also differ depending upon the location of the afflicted nerve fibers.
Prior to delving into the signs of this disease, it is worth mentioning that the exact cause of this debilitating disease is still unknown. Because an MS patient’s body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, the condition is considered to be an autoimmune disease. In the case of MS specifically, this defect in the immune system destroys an important substance called Myelin, which is a fatty material that serves as a layer of protection for the nerve fibers within the brain and spinal cord.
Though the exact cause of Multiple Sclerosis is not known, genetic and environmental factors are thought to contribute to its onset.
Possible risk factors could include:
- Sex – women are almost twice as likely to develop MS
- Age – the disease usually develops in people between the ages of 15 and 60
- Family history – having a parent or close relative with the diagnosis increases your chances of developing the disease
- Certain viruses, including the strain Epstein-Barr, which is known to cause Mononucleosis, increases an individual’s likelihood of being diagnosed with MS
- Race – Caucasions, especially those of Northern European lineage, are more likely than any other race to develop MS, while people of Asian, African American, and Native American descent are the least likely
- Colder Climates – while MS can occur anywhere, it is most common in areas with more temperate climates, such as the northern parts of the US, Canada, New Zealand, southern Europe, and Australia
- Having certain autoimmune diseases, such as Type 1 Diabetes, thyroid disease, or inflammatory bowel disease also increases your chances of developing the condition
Types of MS
Generally there are two types of Multiple Sclerosis. They are:
1. Secondary-Progressive MS
This type affects roughly 60-70 percent of MS patients, and typically indications of the condition develop steadily over a period of time, with or without remission periods. A person’s mobility and motion will be greatly affected, though the evidence of this type of the disease will vary widely from person to person.
2. Primary-Progressive MS
Patients with Primary-Progressive MS typically experience symptoms that begin suddenly and seem to progress in severity quite steadily and without relapses, instead of gradually over time.
The MS Signs to Watch For
Early signs of Multiple Sclerosis can include but are not limited to:
- Numbness or weakness of the limbs that generally affects one side of the body at a time. It can also affect the legs and the trunk
- Vision loss – partial or complete. This typically occurs in one eye, and is commonly accompanied by pain caused by eye movement
- Double vision that is prolonged.
- Sensations of tingling or pain in certain parts of the body
- Sensations of electric-shock when moving the neck or bending it forward
- Tremors, unsteady strides, or lack of coordination.
- Irregular fatigue
- Speech can become slurred
- Irregular functioning of the bowel and bladder systems
If you are or a loved one are experiencing one or multiple of these symptoms, you should consult a doctor right away. While these indications could signal another, less severe problem, they could also be a clue that an MS diagnosis is imminent. Early detection is key to managing this disease in order to continue living a normal, functioning life.