Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack the central nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Within the central nervous system, the nerve cells send each other messages through the use of axons. Axons have a protective outer layer called myelin. Multiple Sclerosis will cause your immune system to attack the myelin which in turn begins to create lesions within the central nervous system. The creation of these lesions makes it difficult for the central nervous system to function correctly. The lesions also make it difficult for the brain to send messages to the rest of the body. As more lesions form, it can lead to physical and cognitive changes.
Multiple Sclerosis affects people all around the world. According to the Multiple Sclerosis Society Multiple Sclerosis affects more women than men and most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50 years old. It is estimated that 1 million people are living with Multiple Sclerosis in the United States and 2.3 million people are living with Multiple Sclerosis globally.
Multiple Sclerosis can cause many symptoms, and those diagnosed may show some or all of these symptoms. The symptoms may change over time as the disease progresses. The most common symptoms include:
Acute and or chronic pain
Change in vision
Numbness and tingling in extremities
Decreased attention spans
Difficulties with learning new tasks
Difficulties with word finding
There are 4 different types of Multiple Sclerosis. Someone can only have 1 type of Multiple Sclerosis at a time but the type may change as it progresses. The 4 different types of Multiple Sclerosis are as follows:
Clincially Isolated Syndrome (CIS): CIS involves one episode of symptoms that usually lasts around 24 hours. These symptoms are caused by demyelination in the central nervous system. This one episode is not enough to diagnose Multiple Sclerosis. An MRI will be done and if no lesions are present then no diagnosis is made and you are less likely to develop Multiple Sclerosis in the future. However, if there is a lesion present you are more likely to be diagnosed with Relapsing- Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.
Relapsing- Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS): This is the most common form of Multiple Sclerosis at onset. RRMS is when your symptoms come and go over time. When you are in remission the disease does not progress at all.
Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis ( PPMS): If you are diagnosed with PPMS it means that your symptoms are progressively getting worse than when you were first diagnosed. However, you may exhibit short periods when your symptoms improve.
Secondary Progress Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS): If you are diagnosed with SPMS it means that you may be undergoing worsening symptoms of the disease from the start.
Currently there is no cure for Multiple Sclerosis. However, there are many treatments available to help address the symptoms and decrease the acceleration of the disease. If you have Multiple Sclerosis you may feel like staying in bed all day because you may feel as if performing exercises will make your muscle fatigue or pain worse. This is the complete opposite of the truth. In order to combat Multiple Sclerosis and help improve some of your symptoms, it is vital that you exercise daily. Exercise when you have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis has been proven to overall increase endurance, strength in the arms and legs, bowel and bladder function, improvement with cognitive function, decrease fatigue, and improve your mood.
If you have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and do not exercise regularly, your muscles will start to atrophy and become weaker which in turn can cause decreased bone density and put you at a higher risk for falling and sustaining a fracture. Not exercising can also lead to low endurance and shallowing breathing.
It is important to get approval from your physician before you start an exercise routine. Once you are cleared to start a routine it is a good idea to meet with a physical or occupational therapist that specializes in Multiple Sclerosis. When exercising it is very important to remember to stay hydrated and cool. Being dehydrated and too hot when exercising can temporarily heighten your Multiple Sclerosis symptoms.
All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the NEOFECT website is solely at your own risk.
- Becky Alter, OTR/LBecky is an occupational therapist and healthcare content writer based out of Denver, CO.