Multiple sclerosis is a complex disease most often diagnosed in young adults, aged 15 to 40. We do know that it also affects children, some as young as two years old. The impact of MS is felt by family, friends and by the community. MS is unpredictable, affecting vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. Its effects are physical, emotional, financial, and last a lifetime. There is no cure.
What is MS?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. The disease attacks the myelin sheath which is a protective covering wrapped around the nerves of the central nervous system.
When this happens, the usual flow of nerve impulses along nerve fibres (axons) is interrupted or distorted. The result may be the wide variety of MS symptoms, depending upon what part or parts of the central nervous system are affected. The damaged parts of myelin are often called “lesions” or “plaques”. In its most common form, MS has well defined attacks followed by complete or partial recovery. Over time however, the myelin may lose its ability to recover, and scarring sets in, with the possibility of more permanent damage. The severity of MS, progression and specific symptoms cannot be predicted at the time of diagnosis.
How does it affect those diagnosed?
While the following list of symptoms can seem daunting, particularly to people who are newly diagnosed, there are treatments to help manage most of these symptoms. Not all people with MS will experience all symptoms and often the symptoms will improve during periods of remission. Symptoms may include:
- Balance and Dizziness
- Bladder dysfunction
- Bowel Constipation, Diarrhea and Incontinence
- Cognitive Impairment
- Dry Mouth
- Dysarthria, or difficulty speaking
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
- Fatigue and Fatigability
- Gait (difficulty in walking)
- Hormonal Influences for women with MS
- Inappropriate Affect (also known as pseudo bulbar affect, emotional incontinence, involuntary emotional expression disorder-IEED)
- L’hermitte's (Electric shock sensation radiating down spine with neck flexion)
- Mood Liability / Bipolar Affective Disorder
- Optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve)
- Paroxysmal Symptoms
- Sensory Impairment, Numbness / Tingling
- Uhthoff's Phenomena (Heat Intolerance)
- Useless Hand Syndrome (of Oppenheimer)
*Information about MS borrowed from the MS Society of Canada. For more Information, please visit http://mssociety.ca/en/information/default.htm