Multiple Sclerosis. Sounds scary doesn’t it? It actually comes from the Greek word skleros, meaning hard. In MS, hard areas form along the nerve cells in multiple areas, and thus was born the name.
But what makes MS happen?
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. This is when some of the immune cells that are meant to protect our body from infections, colds, the flu, and other viruses, get a little mixed up, and start to attack some of the body’s own cells. In the case of MS, the immune system attacks the protective lining that covers the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, known as the myelin sheath. This can create scars or lesions, which affects the way the brain and the body talk to each other.
There are three types of MS.
Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS)
Relapsing Remitting MS (this is me). This is the most common, affecting 85% of people with MS when first diagnosed. In RRMS, symptoms can often come and go. There might be long periods where there are no, or fairly mild symptoms. At this time the disease is in remission.
So remission sounds pretty easy, right?
We’re not quite out of the woods yet. It’s possible during these periods for previous lesions to ‘flare up’. This can cause old symptoms to just re-appear with no warning.
And then there’s the relapsing part.
This is when a new symptom comes along, something that hasn’t been experienced before. It could also mean a worsening of previous symptoms.
The thing is, you never know how long a relapse will last. It could come and go in a week, or last months. In some cases, any damage caused could be permanent, meaning the symptoms will never go away.
Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS)
Over time, it is possible for RRMS to develop and become permanently active. This can mean that the disease gets gradually progressive, and that the damage caused to the central nervous system (CNS) does not heal. This leads to permanent or worsening symptoms. This is known as Secondary Progressive MS.
Primary Progressive MS (PPMS)
The final, and rarest, type of MS is Primary Progressive. Primary Progressive MS affects 10-15% people diagnosed with MS. In PPMS, the attack on the myelin sheath is constant and progressive from the start. The sufferer does not go through periods of relapses. The effects are the same as SPMS, a worsening of symptoms that causes permanent damage.
The Cure for MS
Ok. I lied. At the moment there is no cure for MS. It just kind of hangs with you for life. However, there are a tonne of medications, therapies, and little life hacks that can help make MS life a little easier.
Hopefully you’ve learnt a lot from this (and not dozed off). Just in case you missed anything, I’ve splashed a summary below.
- MS is an autoimmune disease that attacks the cells that protect the central nervous system
- The damage affects the signals between the brain and the rest of the body
- There are three types of MS. Two are progressive (get worse over time) and the other is intermittent (new symptoms appear at random and may be temporary)
- There is currently no cure for MS (but don’t worry, people are working on it!)
Hope that’s cleared everything up.
Want to find out what MS symptoms and your favourite box of choccys’ have in common? Click here