What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, potentially debilitating disease that affects your central nervous system, which is made up of your brain and spinal cord. Multiple sclerosis is widely believed to be an autoimmune disease, a condition in which your immune system attacks components of your body as if they’re foreign. In multiple sclerosis, the body mistakenly directs antibodies and white blood cells against proteins in the myelin sheath, a fatty substance that insulates nerve fibers in your brain and spinal cord. Multiple sclerosis is unpredictable and varies in severity. In some people, multiple sclerosis is a mild illness, but it can lead to permanent disability in others. Treatments can modify the course of the disease and relieve symptoms.
Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms May Include:
- Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs, which typically occurs on one side of your body at a time or the bottom half of your body
- Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement
- Double vision or blurring of vision
- Tingling or pain in parts of your body
- Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain head movements
- Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait
Doctors and researchers don’t understand what causes this autoimmune reaction. Something seems to trigger the condition in susceptible people.
Care for a Patient with Multiple Sclerosis
These tips may help relieve some of the symptoms of MS
- Get enough rest. Fatigue is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis, and getting your rest may make you feel less tired.
- Regular aerobic exercise may offer some benefits if you have mild to moderate MS. Benefits include improved strength, muscle tone, balance and coordination, and help with depression. Swimming is a good option for people with MS who are bothered by heat.
- Be careful with heat. Extreme heat may cause extreme muscle weakness. Although some people with multiple sclerosis aren’t bothered by heat and may enjoy warm baths and showers, be very careful before exposing yourself to extreme heat until you know how you’ll react. Don’t get into a hot tub or sauna unless there’s someone nearby who can pull you out if necessary. If you do experience heat-related worsening of signs or symptoms, cooling down for a few hours usually will return you to your normal state.
- Cool down. Many people with multiple sclerosis experience heat-related worsening of MS symptoms. If you live in a hot and humid area, consider having air conditioning in your home. Tepid or cool baths also may provide some relief.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can help keep your immune system strong.