Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a lifelong condition that is often serious, affecting the brain and spinal cord, with 100,000 people in the UK living with the condition.
MS often develops in people in their 20’s and 30’s, but some people notice symptoms years before they are diagnosed.
MS affects the nervous system
A substance called myelin protects nerve fibres in the central nervous system – this allows messages to be sent between the brain and the body effectively.
For those with MS, the body mistakenly attacks myelin, confusing it as a foreign substance. This damages myelin, stripping it off the nerve fibres and leaving scars in the process. This affects the transmission of messages along the nerve fibres, causing them to slow down, become distorted, or not get through at all.
The nerve fibres can become damaged as well as myelin, and this is what causes a progressive increase in disability for those with MS over time.
What do MS symptoms look like?
MS can affect your movement, vision, balance, and emotions, however MS is different for everybody. The main symptoms include:
- Trouble with walking
- Blurred vision
- Sensations such as numbness or tingling in the body
- Muscle stiffness/spasms
- Cognitive issues such as difficulty learning and planning
- Bladder issues
Females are 3 times more likely to develop MS than males and although a life-long condition, MS is not terminal.
Two main types of MS
- Relapsing MS – this is where you have times of stability in between flare ups or relapses. After a relapse, symptoms may lessen or go away completely. 8 out of 10 people have this kind of MS.
- Progressive MS – this is where your symptoms progress over time without relapses, and just over 1 out of 10 people have this kind of MS.
There currently isn’t a cure for MS, but several things can be done to treat symptoms:
- Steroid medication can speed up recovery during relapses
- Using specific treatments for individual MS symptoms
- Using disease-modifying therapies
Myths & misconceptions with MS
- MS is infectious or contagious – MS cannot be passed on by meeting people with MS.
- MS is a terminal illness – Many people are diagnosed with MS in their 20’s or 30’s, yet are expected to live another 40 to 50 years whilst having MS.
- You will need to use a wheelchair – for the majority, a rapid worsening of symptoms is unlikely and most people with MS will not need to use a wheelchair on a regular basis.
Have you been diagnosed with MS? Sometimes it helps talking to people about your experiences. At HealthUnlocked, we have a supportive community for people living with Multiple Sclerosis . Join the community and get tips, advice and support from people who understand.