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What is Multiple Sclerosis? MS Defined

by Shannon, February 04, 2019

At Care Indeed, we specialize in providing live-in and hourly care for individuals and elderly patients needing companionship and support. Our mission is also to educate our client base and community on how certain ailments and diseases can affect the mind and body.

This series on Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is designed to help you – or a loved one – navigate the disease with grace and give you the resources you need to find the care you need and deserve.

 

What is MS?

 Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that affects the central nervous system, including the spinal cord and brain. According to the MS International Federation, more than 2 million people throughout the world are currently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

The condition is classified as an inflammatory demyelinating disease, which means that causes damage to the material that insulates your nerves. As a result, coordinated movements are restricted because the lack of myelin does not allow nerves to transmit impulses as needed. People with MS start to develop scars on the brain and spinal cord where myelin is lost.

As the disease progresses, people with multiple sclerosis may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Weak limbs
  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling sensations
  • Unsteadiness
  • Fatigue
  • Partial or complete loss of vision
  • Electric-shock sensations in the body
  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • Irritable bowels or challenges with bladder function

 Individuals with severe forms of MS may also develop:

  • Mental changes or mood swings
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy
  • Paralysis
  • Muscle spasms

 In essence, multiple sclerosis symptoms make life unpredictable and can cause individuals to feel unsteady or uncomfortable when they least expect it.

 

What Are the Types of MS?

There are many forms of multiple sclerosis and managing the disease is an ongoing process. That’s why compassionate care and support is essential to improve your quality of life.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, four primary types of MS exist:

  • Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS)
  • Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS)
  • Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS)
  • Primary Progressive MS (PPMS)

Clinically Isolated Syndrome, also known as CIS, occurs when inflammation in the central nervous system causes neurologic symptoms and lesions on the brain. While CIS is not yet typically classified as multiple sclerosis in most patients, it is viewed as an early sign that MS may develop. For example, if a patient does not have lesions on the brain, his or her risk of developing MS is decreased.

Relapsing-Remitting MS, also referred to as RRMS, is the most common form of multiple sclerosis. If you have this type of MS, you will experience attacks on the central nervous system, followed by relapses and a period of remission. Your condition would be classified as either active with multiple sclerosis symptoms or non-active during periods where symptoms are non-existent.

Secondary Progressive MS, also known as SPMS, is diagnosed when your multiple sclerosis symptoms progressively worsen over time causing dysfunction with movement and damage to the central nervous system. Individuals with SPMS are also classified as active and non-active when symptoms increase or decrease; however, the disease progressively produces more instance of active symptoms than RRMS.

Primary Progressive MS, referred to as PPMS, is the most severe form of multiple sclerosis. Approximately 15 percent of people with MS have this type, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Patients do experience relapses or periods of remission with PPMS, but the risk for permanent disability is significantly higher than other forms of multiple sclerosis.

 

What are the Risk Factors for MS?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a clear cause of MS is unknown. While it isn’t necessarily clear why some people develop multiple sclerosis, there are risk factors, such as environmental factors and genetics.

Common risk factors include:

  • Age: According to the Mayo Clinic, multiple sclerosis commonly affects individuals between the ages of 15 and 60, although the disease can develop at any age.
  • Family History: People with family members who have suffered from MS may be more at risk for developing the condition.
  • Gender: Most research claims that women are twice as likely to develop MS compared to men.
  • Geographic Area: While the location in which you live cannot cause MS, certain climates and temperatures have been correlated with the disease. For example, more cases of MS have been reported in countries featuring temperate climates, such as Europe, southeastern Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the northern U.S.
  • Ethnic Background: The Mayo Clinic asserts that Caucasians are at higher risk of developing MS compared to Native Americans, Asians and African Americans.
  • Lifestyle Habits: In some cases, lifestyle choices, such as smoking, can increase your risk of developing relapsing-remitting MS.
  • Medical Conditions: Although not confirmed, some researchers believe that people with type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease or thyroid disease have a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis.

Regardless of whether or not you are at a higher risk for developing MS, it is essential to consult with your physician if you experience any of the common multiple sclerosis symptoms.

 

How Can I Find the Support I Need?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with one of the four types of MS, you need resources, support and compassion to navigate the disease. Care Indeed professionals are here for you.

Support and care is essential as you cope with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Care Indeed professionals are highly-trained to assist with mobility, hygiene, transportation and companionship regardless of your condition or disease. We offer local resources for our clients and their families to help you understand the level of care you need. In addition, our professional caregivers are available to help you with daily tasks to ease the transition when MS progresses.

Life with any type of multiple sclerosis is challenging and learning how to accept the challenge is the first step in improving your overall quality of life. While you may struggle with the changes as a patient, caregiver or family member, the support you need is only a click away.

Care Indeed is committed to providing you the support and in-home caregivers who understand your challenges and daily struggles at work and home. Learn more about how to get the support you need while living with Multiple Sclerosis today