World MS Day 2017

Date: Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 31st is World MS Day, with help from the MS International Federation we have gathered some information about MS to help keep you informed

May 31st, 2017 is World MS Day so One to One have gathered some information from the MS International Federation to help you understand more about MS and how to help someone you know who suffers from it. Today over 2,300,000 people around the world have MS

What is MS?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is one of the most common diseases of the central nervous system. MS is an inflammatory demyelinating condition, which means it is caused by damage to myelin. This is a fatty material that insulates nerves. The loss of myelin is accompanied by a disruption in the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses to the brain and spinal cord. MS symptoms vary widely and include blurred vision, weak limbs, tingling sensations, unsteadiness and fatigue.

Are there different types of MS?

Because of how unpredictable MS is there are a few different types. Here is a list of them with their symptoms:

  • Relapsing-Remitting MS - This kind of MS has unpredictable attacks, where new symptoms appear or existing ones become more severe. Relapses can last for a varying period of time and there is partial or total recovery. The disease may then be inactive for months or even years. About 85% of people with MS are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS.
  • Primary Progressive MS - This is characterised by a lack of distinct attacks, but with slow and steadily worsening symptoms. There will be a build-up of disability which may level off or just continue over months and years. About 10% of people with MS are diagnosed with this.
  • Secondary Progressive MS - Most people who initially have relapsing-remitting MS, there will be a development of progressive disability later in the course of the disease. This often happens with superimposed relapses and no definite periods of remission,

Who can get MS?

Studies have helped to identify things that may be related to the risk of developing MS, such as, latitude, migration patterns, genetics and infectious processes. According to the Atlas of MS, there are around 2.3 million diagnosed cases of MS in the world, they believe the number could actually be much higher as people with MS in certain parts of the world a likely to not be diagnosed. MS affects twice as many women than men, which suggests hormones could play a role in the disease. Most people get diagnosed between 25 and 335 although around three to five percent of people with MS are children, it can also occur in much older adults. 

How is MS Diagnosed?

Early MS may present itself as vague symptoms. Invisible symptoms are often difficult to communicate to doctors and health professionals and it is not uncommon for a diagnosis to take several months. There are a range of tests to discover if a person has MS but there is no single test. The tests include:

  • Neurological Examination - This is known as 'history taking'. It helps the neurologist get a better idea about you and can help to figure out other problems that could explain your symptoms. 
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - An MRI scan uses strong magnetic fields to create a detailed image of the brain and spinal cord. It will show the exact location of any damage or scarring. Recently, powerful MRI techniques have been used in order to study inflammation and tissue damage in regions of the brain, for which conventional MRI techniques are not sensitive enough. Several of this non-conventional MRI methods are being used in the diagnosis of MS.
  • Evoked Potentials - Evoked potential testing involved measuring the time it takes for the brain to receive messages from the eyes. The neurologist will place small electrodes on your head to monitor brain waves. If MS is active this test can detect messages to and from the brain travelling more slowly than usual.
  • Lumber Puncture - A lumber puncture is when the neurologist inserts a needle into the space around the spinal cord, under local anaesthetic. A sample of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord, called cerebrospinal fluid, is taken out and tested for abnormalities that happen with MS. 

What treatments can you receive if you have MS?

There is no cure for MS at present, but it can be managed using drugs to speed up the clinical improvement from relapses, medications that reduce the risk of further relapses and therapies that alleviate and improve various symptoms. People with MS experience a huge range of symptoms caused by damage to their central nervous system. Here are some of the treatments used in MS:

  • Treatment during a relapse - MS relapses are caused by an inflammation in the central nervous system in the central nervous system that damages the myelin coating around nerve fibres. Acute relapses are normally treated with steroids. 
  • Disease-modifying treatments - These are not a cure for MS but try to prevent relapses that occur in relapsing-remitting MS. Whether any of these drugs slow down the rate of disability in the long term is not yet clear and is a current focus of research.
  • Progressive MS - The drugs involved in disease-modifying treatments have not been found to be useful for people with progressive MS. Ocrelizumab is an experimental new treatment for MS, it works by targeting a type of immune cell called a B cell. This helps to reduce the immune response by stopping these cells from attacking and damaging myelin. Ocrelizumab has been granted "breakthrough therapy" status by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and now had been granted Priority Review Designation. 

(The information should not be relied on to suggest a course of treatment for a particular individual and it should not be used in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider)

To find out more or to donate to the MS International Federation click here.

*All MS information courtesy of the MS Internation Federation,

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