As it is MS Awareness Week, I am continuing my related posts into the condition that I have recently been diagnosed with. Here is my attempt to put the main ‘facts’ into the most straightforward of terms…
Multiple Sclerosis, or MS as it is often abbreviated to, is an inflammatory disease of the brain and spinal cord that affects around 2.5million people worldwide, or approximately 1 in 2800. With an extensive range of reported symptoms and types of people affected, it is not always a straightforward matter for medical professionals to diagnose the condition.
However, some probabilities and likelihoods have been established about the disease since its first diagnosis in 1849. Firstly, it is usually known as a condition of young adults, with the first appearance of clinical symptoms being in a patient’s early 30s, with diagnosis following after a suitable period of observation. Secondly, it is an affliction more likely to affect people in the temperate areas of the northern hemisphere, with five times more diagnoses in these climates as opposed to tropical climates. Thirdly, there is some evidence of genetic factors playing a part in passing down the condition, with the risk of contracting the disease incrementally increasing if a parent or direct relative is a sufferer.
With these statistical likelihoods, professionals can begin to make a diagnosis based upon a patient’s symptoms and observations. These can include loss of feeling in the nerve endings, memory problems, spatial awareness limitation, vision and speech problems, hand-eye coordination faults and problems with balance. At this stage, the professional will usually order an MRI scan of the brain and or spinal column to check for evidence of lesions or scarring. If found, a diagnosis of MS can be made.
Present recommendations for treatment usually revolve around the management of the symptoms. In a first occurrence of MS, steroids are usually employed to calm the inflammation and stabilise the patient. Following this, the present thinking is to contain the symptoms and do everything possible to avoid a relapse or the repetition of the symptoms. This is usually done with a regular drug treatment of interferons either injected daily or weekly. There are also currently plans to introduce a new oral drug treatment onto the market later this year, which would remove the need for injections.
The most common type of MS is the relapsing-remitting form where a sufferer can go months and years between one attack and another. At present there is no known cure. However, in most cases an MS sufferer should be able to live a fulfilled and healthy life without too much unnecessary disruption.
The modern thinking is that where the symptoms and attacks can be so wildly unpredictable, the best course is through containment and healthy living. While drugs and modern medication play a necessary part, so too does diet and fitness.
There is some evidence that lack of sufficient vitamin D levels play a part in MS symptoms and many sufferers take supplementary quotas. Healthcare professionals recommend a balanced diet, and in some cases advise becoming a pescatarian or vegetarian – the reason being that saturated fats commonly found in meat products can be harmful to general health and the control of MS symptoms. Heavy smoking is also strongly discouraged. With this in mind, and with a sensible fitness regime established and a positive approach to lifestyle, it is completely possible to ward off the symptoms of MS and lead a healthy and active life.