By Dr. Sachin Kandhari
Majorly causing complications with vision, balance, muscle control and other bodily functions, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects the brain spinal cord and the optic nerves. While the condition affects everyone (suffering from the condition) differently, some may have mild symptoms and may not require any treatment at all, while others may have trouble getting around even with their daily tasks.
Despite the fact that the causes of MS are still unknown, the condition is basically thought to be an autoimmune disorder where the body’s own immune system produces cells and proteins (antibodies) that attack myelin (fatty substance that protects our nerve fibers).
Even though MS is not an inherited disease, but it appears that genetic factors play a major role in making some people highly vulnerable of developing the condition. It is estimated that smokers are at an additional risk, and also women are thrice as likely to develop MS in comparison to men.
How to identify the onset of Multiple Sclerosis?
Most patients first begin to have symptoms between the age of 20-40 and it may vary from individual to individual depending on the location of the nerve lesion. The disease itself may be mild, moderate, or severe, and depending on the amount of damage, the brain fails to send proper signals throughout the body resulting in inefficient functioning of the nerves.
The common symptoms of MS to watch out for may include: fatigue, trouble walking, numbness and tingling, sexual problems, vision problem, speech problem, muscle weakness, stiffness, and spasm, problem focusing or remembering and bladder and bowel problems. Other common symptoms in the early stages include –
• Vision Problems – Optic neuritis, inflammation of the nerves in the eye, is a common early symptom. Patients may initially experience blurred or double vision, usually because of problems with one eye. As the condition progresses, vision loss increases, although total blindness is rare.
• Tingling and Numbness Sensations – Tingling, crawling or burning sensations, or loss of sensation can occur. Patients may feel sensations of intense heat or cold. Symptoms often begin at the end of the legs or arms and move up towards the beginning of the limb.
• Muscle Weakness and Spasms – Patients can feel weakness, clumsiness, or heaviness in the limbs. They may have difficulty with finger dexterity.
• Problems with Balance and Coordination – Patients have an unsteady gait and difficulty walking normally and keeping their balance. They may have trouble grasping small objects. These problems can be compounded by other common MS symptoms, such as dizziness and tremor.
• Fatigue – Fatigue is the most common and debilitating symptom of MS and often occurs early in the disease. Fatigue is typically worse in the late afternoon and improves in the early evening, and may be accompanied by an increase in body temperature. This is a significant symptom in nearly all patients.
Please note that all patients may not have all symptoms. Also, most people with MS have attacks, also called relapses, when the condition gets noticeably worse. They’re usually followed by times of recovery when symptoms improve. For others, the disease continues to worsen over time.
Getting a Diagnosis
It can be a challenge to diagnose MS, since its symptoms can be the same as many other nerve disorders. But as a suspicion to have this condition, the doctors may suggest a visit to the neurologist.
While no single test can confirm or rule out the condition, therefore a series of test are conducted which include –
• Blood tests to rule out diseases that cause similar symptoms, like AIDS. Checks of your balance, coordination, vision, and other functions to see how well your nerves are working.
• Further MRI can be the best radiology imaging which takes details images of the structures in the body.
• CSF analysis – cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a fluid that cushions the brain and spinal cord, is also analyzed since the presence of specific proteins are a confirmatory test for the onset of MS.
While there is no specific cure for MS till date, but a plethora of modalities are available to improve the functioning. Recently, Cyberdyne, South Asia’s 1st neuromodulation technique was launched at IBS Hospital New Delhi, which has the potential to recover such patients and improve the quality of life as normal.
Cyberdyne can help recover patients from paralysis due to MS and when given with neuro rehab, can help with balance problems as well. Further, in those patients, suffering from bladder and bowel incontinence due to MS, sacral neuromodulation methods have clinically proven good relief and outcomes.
(The author is a Senior Neurosurgeon and Managing Director, IBS Hospital, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)