Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the nervous system. It is the second most common neurological disease in early and middle aged adults. Around 10,000 people are living with MS in Ireland. Everyday a new case is diagnosed. Worldwide around 2.5 million people suffer from MS.
What happens when you have MS?
MS is an autoimmune disease, which means that the organs fail to recognise their own constituent parts, which leads to an immune reaction against its own cells and tissue. White blood cells attack brain tissue and the spinal cord causing inflammation, which leaves scar tissue behind. The nerve fibres are damaged and as a result nerve impulses are transmitted poorly or sometimes not at all depending on stage of progression of the disease. Symptoms differ, depending on where the nerves are damaged.
What are the symptoms of MS?
Initially difficulties with vision (reduction in the sharpness of one eye or double vision) and changes in sensation like numbness, or pins and needles in the arms and legs are the most common symptoms. Further symptoms are difficulty in moving or with coordination and balance as well as muscle weakness or spasms.
As the disease progresses the spectrum shifts somewhat. More than half of those affected have difficulties moving and loss of balance, loss of sensation, spasms, fatigue, weakness in the arms and legs, bladder and bowel difficulties as well as sexual disorders. Coordination difficulties in the arms and legs, double vision, muscle pain and spasms and psychological symptoms are also possible.
How does MS progress?
The vast majority of MS sufferers experience a so-called demyelinating event at the outset. These are acute phases with new or increasing symptoms, which can last from a few days to a few months and then (partially or completely) disappear again (relapsing-remitting MS). In about half of those affected, the relapsing-remitting MS progresses after some years into a second stage. In the second progressive (advanced) MS phase there is a continuous disimprovement between events. In the long run every fifth MS sufferer experiences a mild progression, i.e. hardly any restrictions, even after 10 years. Three quarters of MS sufferers are in a position to live with a large degree of independence and with out assistive technology (e.g. wheelchair) even after living with the disease for many years.
Who gets MS?
The disease mostly begins in young adult age, between 20 and 40 years old, but sometimes, although rarely in children and elderly people. Women are twice as likely to suffer from MS as their male counterparts. The reason for this is as of yet unknown.
Can MS be cured?
Unfortunately there is of yet no therapy, which can cure MS. There ishowever medication that can slow the progression of the disease iconsiderably in some of the sufferers. In the last number of years treatment with Interferon-beta or Glatirameracetat have had the most success. This preparation regulates the occurrence of infection in the central nervous system and can reduce the number of attacks in relapsing-remitting MS and slow the onset of disability.
Diagnosed with MS – and now?
After being diagnosed with MS ones life goals are often fundamentally questioned. Many of those concerned are shocked from the diagnosis and need time to adjust to the new situation. Relatives and friends are also confronted with the sickness from the beginning and also go through the crisis at first hand. Through this way many questions arise about career and family situations as well as future perspectives.
Irish M.S. Helpline
The M.S. Helpline was set up by the M.S. Society of Ireland to provide people with M.S., their families, friends and colleagues with advice and support on all aspects of living with Multiple Sclerosis. The M.S. Helpline is manned by a team of trained professionals who are on hand to talk, or more importantly listen to anyone concerned about or with Multiple Sclerosis. MS Helpline 1850-233-233 This service is available from:
Monday - Friday from 10.00am - 5.00pm
Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6.30pm - 9.30pm.