Check Your Health: Multiple Sclerosis

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Multiple Sclerosis (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system. Although the exact cause of this mysterious illness is uncertain, it’s believed to be an auto-immune disease. Experts say this means the body’s own immune system begins mistakenly attacking areas of the brain.

“In M.S. the immune system will attack the special lining in the brain called the myelin,” says Dr. Brett Alldredge a Neurologist at Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital.

Myelin protects cells and is also responsible for enhancing communication between the brain and the rest of the body. When myelin is attacked, it begins affecting the brain/body communication.

“When you don’t have good communication between the brain and the body, that’s when you get the symptoms [of multiple sclerosis],” says Dr. Alldredge.

Symptoms of M.S. vary from person to person. The most common symptoms people will first come in with are sensory-based. This includes numbness or tingling on one or both sides of the body. Another symptom many people experience early on is optic neuritis which is vision loss in one eye that’s usually associated with pain.

“If there’s an attack in the area of the brain that is involved with sensation to the leg, you could have numbness and tingling in the leg. If there’s an attack to the area of the brain that’s responsible for the motor control and the arm, you could have loss of strength in the arm. So the symptoms you get all depend on where those attacks happen,” explains Dr. Alldredge.

Multiple sclerosis is twice as common in women than men. It’s typically diagnosed between ages 20-40. It’s more common in people who live northern latitudes, especially people who have Northern-European ancestry.

“There’s also an association between Vitamin-D levels and sunlight,” adds Dr. Alldredge.

M.S. is an unpredictable disease that affects people differently. Some live their entire life with mild symptoms, others may lose their ability to see, write, speak, and walk when communication between the brain and body becomes disrupted.

If you’re diagnosed with M.S., there are many medications currently available that can help manage the disease.

“These medications care pretty effective at reducing the likelihood or frequency of new attacks and can help reduce the accumulation of disability overtime,” says Dr. Alldredge.

For more information about Multiple Sclerosis, click here.

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