Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a permanent disease that is characterised by a slowly progressive disablement.
Around each nerve fibre is an insulating wrapping of fatty membrane called myelin. In Multiple Sclerosis (MS) the myelin is broken down in patches throughout the central nervous system. Without the myelin coating nerve messages cannot travel normally and they can become garbled or lost so that the instructions sent by the nervous system to different parts of the body are disrupted.
MS affects more women than men with symptoms becoming apparent in young adults even though a firm diagnosis may not be made for many years. It is rare for children to be diagnosed. It is not contagious and cannot be caught from someone. The disease is usually characterised by attacks followed by periods of recovery.
The covering of the nerves in the brain and the spinal cord are repeatedly attacked and their function is reduced. The cause of MS is not known but it runs in families and is slightly more frequent in people with certain tissue types.
MS attacks can develop in a matter of days or weeks and with each attack they may leave the patient with reduced mobility. Another attack will follow, often from another part of the nervous system after a period of time.
Inflammation of the Optic Nerve is the most usual starting symptom and there is a reduction of sight and pain behind the eyes. Other symptoms include paralysis, disruptions in feeling (loss of sensation) and problems with urination.
Since all parts of the nervous system can be attacked, the symptoms can be very different.
Unfortunately it is not possible to cure the disease at the present time, or to predict its behaviour in an individual person.
Steroid treatment may shorten the duration and possibly also the degree of severity of the separate attacks. It has no long-term effect.
Symptoms can also be treated with a variety of medicines such as pain killers, muscle relaxants, antidepressants and medicines for preventing urinary incontinence.