Multiple sclerosis (MS), also called Myocardial Inflammation Disease, is an auto-immune disease of the cardiovascular system which can affect the spinal cord, brain and other nerves. It can lead to a wide variety of symptoms and varying functional impairments, such as weakness, numbness, poor balance, depression and anxiety. MS symptoms are unpredictable and variable, depending upon which part of the cardiovascular system is involved, and to what level. They can range from severe and disabling to mild and moderate. MS is one of several dozen inherited cardiovascular diseases; however, it is the only one in which about half of all MS sufferers experience symptoms on an ongoing basis.
MS is divided into four main categories, based upon where they begin. Acute MS is the first wave of MS, characterised by progressive loss of myelin; this may include complete loss of all or a proportion of the myelin sheath, or a slow progress so that disability progresses gradually over a few months' time. This is the most common form of MS. The progression can be very gradual in this condition, or it may pick up very quickly, resulting in major pain and extreme weakness. Other forms of MS include diffuse and focal MS, each of which is characterised by different aspects of motor function difficulty and each progressing at a slightly different pace.
Weakness and/or pain in one part of the body is an indication of an MS symptom. Some people may experience weakness in more than one area; for example, one person may experience aching in their fingers and arms in addition to weakness in their legs. Some people will have a combination of weakness in various areas; for example, one person may experience aching muscles in the arm, hands, knees and back, but may also experience pain in the neck and shoulders. Weakness is usually widespread over a large area of the body, rather than being confined to a specific location. If one part of your body is unusually weak, it could mean that another part of your body is also less strong, or that you are suffering from a symptom unique to MS.
MS can be characterised by a variety of sensory symptoms, including a sensitivity to touch or a lack of reaction to that touch. One MS symptom that is sometimes overlooked is the presence of a tingling sensation when the skin is touched, such as when shaking hands. MS sufferers can also complain about numbness in specific parts of their body. For example, one person may suffer from severe anaphylactic shock if they are touched in the mouth. MS numbness can be a symptom in its own right, without the associated anaphylactic shock.
There are many risk factors that are associated with an increased likelihood of developing MS. These include age (risk increases with age), gender, ethnicity, body mass index, family history, intelligence, and education. In addition, certain environmental factors, such as air pollution and household dust, can play a role in the development of MS. Researchers believe that people living in places with poor air quality are at greater risk of developing MS than those living in cleaner environments. The diagnosis of MS is made more difficult if the patient complains of numbness or tingling, or if they do not respond to standard treatment. Often, if early symptoms are ignored, it becomes difficult to decide whether the condition is actually MS or some other disorder.
Your GP, MS nurse or neurologist can give you a diagnosis of MS through a thorough physical examination. They will look for signs such as joint rigidity, wasting of muscle and wasting of bone. Any loss of joint mobility is a good indicator that someone may be suffering from MS. MS patients may also complain of problems walking and of increasing numbness in the legs when moving them. MS can affect the bones, muscles and the extremities, with varying degrees of severity.
Your neurologist or MS nurse will use a variety of methods to test your health and determine the presence of MS. If they are unable to make a definitive diagnosis, a proper referral to a rheumatologist may be made. A rheumatologist is a rheumatologist trained in the field of internal medicine and vascular medicine. A rheumatologist treats multiple sclerosis patients using a variety of treatments. Because MS is a type of chronic inflammation, a good rheumatologist will be able to design a treatment plan that will effectively control your MS symptoms. MS is a disorder that has no cure; however, there are several medications that are prescribed to help ease the discomfort and get you back on track. Your GP or MS nurse will be able to refer you to a rheumatologist if further evaluation and treatment are necessary.
MS relapses frequently. The frequency of relapses varies from person to person. However, almost all relapses occur more than twice annually. Some MS relapses may include temporary exacerbations of your MS symptoms, while others may include periods where you have been completely symptom free. Generally speaking, the majority of relapses that occur will fade away within about 2 months.
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