MS symptoms (multiple sclerosis) are highly variable in form and severity between individuals. Motor and sensory functions can be affected separately or together depending on which types of nerves are affected by the disease.
The underlying cause of MS is unknown. There appear to be hereditary as well as environmental roles responsible in the development of the condition.
It is an autoimmune disorder in which the myelin sheath that protects nerves and helps in the transmission of nerve signals is destroyed by the body. The damage to this nerve sheath causes impairment in the normal and controlled signalling of nerve-to-nerve and nerve-to-muscle communication.
The symptoms as well as being highly variable are typically also highly episodic. “Flareups” in which periods of remission are broken with episodes of varying severity of symptoms are highly characteristic.
- motor abnormalities in arms and/or legs (loss of dexterity and strength)
- burning sensation
- tingling sensation
- shooting ‘electrical shock’ sensations
- itching sensation
- general fatigue
- muscle weakness
- behavioral changes (mood swings, depression, euphoria)
- memory difficulties
- mental impairment
- difficulty with control of urination or defecation
- loss of judgement ability
- motor tremors
- eye pain (in one eye)
- vision abnormalities (in one eye)
- shaky, irregular, uncontrolled motor movements
- progressive speech abnormalities
- partial, gradual paralysis
Early diagnosis of MS is made difficult by the wide variety of symptoms and their severity. An individual with episodic presentation of symptoms, or a young individual with a family history of MS and motor, sensory, or visual deficits would suggest the diagnosis of MS versus other disorders with similar symptoms. An MRI is typically performed to confirm the diagnosis.
There is not a cure for the disease. Treatment is typically with a short course of corticosteroids to suppress the immune system attack on the myelin sheath of the nerves. Other drugs are proving effective in alternate treatment paths; to relieve pain, treat depression and anxiety, or relieve fatigue and tremors.
Physical activity is a key element in maintaining ability, strength and coordination in affected individuals. However, depending on the severity of the disease this is not always possible.