An unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, multiple sclerosis (MS) can range from relatively benign to somewhat disabling to devastating, as communication between the brain and other parts of the body is disrupted.
Many investigators believe MS to be an autoimmune disease that may be linked to an unknown environmental trigger, perhaps a virus. In the case of MS, it is the nerve-insulating myelin that comes under assault.
Most people experience their first symptoms of MS between the ages of 20 and 40; the initial symptom of MS is often blurred or double vision, red-green color distortion, or even blindness in one eye. Most MS patients experience muscle weakness in their extremities and difficulty with coordination and balance.
These symptoms may be severe enough to impair walking or even standing. In the worst cases, MS can produce partial or complete paralysis. Most people with MS also exhibit paresthesias, transitory abnormal sensory feelings, such as numbness, prickling, or "pins and needles" sensations. Some may also experience pain. Speech impediments, tremors, and dizziness are other frequent complaints. Occasionally, people with MS have hearing loss. Approximately half of all people with MS experience cognitive impairments, such as difficulties with concentration, attention, memory, and poor judgment, but such symptoms are usually mild and are frequently overlooked. Depression is another common feature of MS.
The vast majority of patients are mildly affected, but in the worst cases, MS can render a person unable to write, speak, or walk. MS is a disease with a natural tendency to remit spontaneously, for which there is no universally effective treatment.
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Adapted from Multiple sclerosis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Internet. Accessed on October 5, 2017.