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MS Illness

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, or the central nervous system (CNS).  A MS illness is much more likely to affect a woman than it is a man, and people with the disorder are usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. In MS the myelin sheath which surrounds the nerve cells becomes damaged causing a wide range of symptoms such as:

Muscle symptoms:

  • Loss of balance
  • Muscle spasms
  • Numbness or abnormal sensation in any area
  • Problems moving arms or legs
  • Problems walking
  • Problems with coordination and making small movements
  • Tremor in one or more arms or legs
  • Weakness in one or more arms or legs

 

Bowel and bladder symptoms:

  • Constipation and stool leakage
  • Difficulty beginning to urinate
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Strong urge to urinate
  • Urine leakage (incontinence)

 

Eye symptoms:

  • Double vision
  • Eye discomfort
  • Uncontrollable rapid eye movements
  • Vision loss (usually affects one eye at a time)

Numbness, tingling, or pain:

  • Facial pain
  • Painful muscle spasms
  • Tingling, crawling, or burning feeling in the arms and legs

 

Other brain and nerve symptoms:

  • Decreased attention span, poor judgment, and memory loss
  • Difficulty reasoning and solving problems
  • Depression or feelings of sadness
  • Dizziness and balance problems
  • Hearing loss

 

Sexual symptoms:

  • Problems with erections
  • Problems with vaginal lubrication

 

Speech and swallowing symptoms:

  • Slurred or difficult-to-understand speech
  • Trouble chewing and swallowing

 

Fatigue is a common and bothersome symptom which worsens as MS progresses.  It is often worse in the late afternoon.

 

MS Illness Treatment

 

The goal of medical treatment in MS is to control the symptoms so that the person with the MS illness can maintain their quality of life.  According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH.gov), medications which may be used in the treatment of MS on a long-term basis include:

  • Interferons (Avonex, Betaseron, or Rebif)
  • Glatiramer acetate (Copaxone)
  • Mitoxantrone (Novantrone)
  • Natalizumab
  • Fingolimod (Gilenya)
  • Methotrexate
  • Azathioprine
  • Intraveneous immunoglobulin
  • Cyclophosphamide

 

Steroids may also be used to decrease the severity of attacks and medicines such as Lioresal (Baclofen) or tizanidine (Zanaflex) may be used to reduce muscle spasms in people with MS.  Other medications may be prescribed to control symptoms such as urinary problems, depression, and fatigue.  Many people consider therapies helpful in the treatment of their MS illness.  The types of therapies that may be used in the treatment of a MS illness are:

  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Planned exercise
  • Counseling services