What is Multiple sclerosis (MS)? Know its Types, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease. In this condition, your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. In people with multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks cells in the myelin (the protective sheath that surrounds nerves in the brain and spinal cord).
Types of Multiple sclerosis
There are four types of multiple sclerosis-
Progressive-Relapsing (PR) MS-
Progressive-relapsing multiple sclerosisis the rarest form of MS and occurs in about 5% of MS patients. People with PRMS experience steady disease progression and a decline in neurological function as seen in primary progressive multiple sclerosis, along with occasional flare-ups as in people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
Secondary Progressive (SP) MS-
Secondary progressive multiple sclerosis is a type of MS that follows relapsing–remitting MS. Most people diagnosed with relapsing–remitting MS (RR-MS) will eventually develop secondary progressive MS (SP-MS). After periods of flares (also called attacks or exacerbations) and remission, the disease begins to progress steadily. People with SP-MS may or may not go into remission.
Primary Progressive (PP) MS-
Primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PP-MS) is characterized by persistent worsening in neurologic function without relapse or remission. This form of MS occurs equally in men and women, with an age of onset about 10 years later than relapsing MS.
Relapsing-Remitting (RR) MS-
Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RR-MS) is the most common type of MS, affecting approximately 85% of MS patients. RR-MS is caused by an inflammatory attack on myelin and nerve fibers that causes worsening of neurological function. Symptoms vary from patient to patient, and symptoms may come on suddenly (called relapses or exacerbations) and then go away (remission).
Symptoms of Multiple sclerosis
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis can occur single or multiple times. They can range in intensity from mild to severe and can also be for long or short term. These are-
- Numbness or tingling (needle-type sensation)
- Sexual dysfunction (males and females loses interest in sex)
- Emotional instability (mood swings)
- Difficulty walking
- Muscle cramp
- Vision problems
- Bladder or bowel problems
- Cognitive changes
Complications of Multiple sclerosis
As MS progresses, worsening symptoms can lead to complications such as:
- Difficulty walking, which may require a cane, walker or wheelchair.
- Loss of bowel or bladder control.
- Memory problems.
- Sexual difficulties.
What causes Multiple sclerosis?
When you have MS, the protective myelin sheath around some of the nerve fibers in your brain, optic nerve, and spinal cord is damaged.
The damage is believed to be the result of an attack by the immune system. Researchers believe there may be environmental triggers, such as: a virus or toxin that triggers an attack on the immune system.
When your immune system attacks myelin, it causes demyelination. This can lead to remission as a new layer of myelin forms, but chronic inflammation can lead to scarring, which can lead to permanent nerve damage.
Risk factors for Multiple sclerosis
There are several risk factors for developing MS. These risk factors include:
- Having close relatives suffering from MS.
- Certain autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Low levels of vitamin D and low sun exposure are linked to a higher risk of MS.
Treatment for Multiple sclerosis
- Vitamin D is a powerful immunomodulatory and immune system relaxant. Vitamin D can be taken as a dietary supplement obtained from eating certain foods such as cold-water fish, fortified dairy products, and eggs, or ingested through exposure to natural sunlight or light therapy devices.
- Antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E can slow inflammation. Vitamin C can also prevent urinary tract infections. However, high doses of vitamin A can be harmful during pregnancy, while high doses of vitamin E can increase the risk of death. Talk to your doctor before taking this dietary supplement.
- People with MS have lower levels of vitamins B12, a vitamin found in meat and animal products. Therefore, vegans and vegetarians may be more susceptible to vitamin B12 deficiency. Your doctor may order blood tests to check for vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Taking calcium improves symptoms of multiple sclerosis. However, supplements may reduce the risk of osteoporosis, while some people with MS are more at risk for developing osteoporosis.
Ashwagandha, a herbal supplement sometimes recommended by specialized Ayurvedic practitioners for the treatment of MS as it is an adaptogen while helps in stimulating cells in the immune system.
Chyawanprash is used as an immune modulator. Thus, Chyawanprash is an effective remedy for multiple sclerosis.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties which are used to reduce the inflammation around the nerves and muscles, which is a symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Licorice is the best remedy to reduce the inflammation which is effective in treating MS symptoms.
Peppermint is clinically helpful for the treatment of MS as it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Turmeric is beneficial in treating MS symptoms as it is a rich source of anti-inflammatory properties.
Drinking cranberry juice can lower the symptoms of multiple sclerosis as it is rich in antioxidants.
Exercise improves heart health and can help a person with MS stay strong and active. Yoga can also help with fatigue and improves mood, although it doesn't help with mobility or thinking skills. Everyone, including those with MS, should get regular aerobic exercise and strength training.
When to see a doctor?
If your doctor says you have multiple sclerosis, you should see an MS specialist or neurologist for a second opinion.
People should consider a diagnosis of MS if they have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Loss of vision in one or both eyes.
- Acute paralysis in the leg or on one side of the body.
- Acute tingling and numbness in the limbs.
- Body imbalance.
- Double vision.