Multiple sclerosis is a chronic illness that involves your central nervous system. The immune system starts attacking myelin, the protective layer around nerve fibers, which causes inflammation and scar tissue. This makes it hard for your brain to send signals to the rest of your body.
People with this condition experience a wide range of symptoms, and due to the nature of the disease, the symptoms can vary widely from person to person.
These symptoms can also change in severity from year to year, month to month, and sometimes even day to day. Two of the most common symptoms of MS are fatigue and difficulty walking.
Around 80% of people with MS report having fatigue which can be debilitating, affecting their ability to work and even perform everyday tasks.
Difficulty walking can occur with MS for a number of reasons:
- Numbness in legs or feet
- Difficulty balancing
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle spasticity
- Difficulty seeing
Difficulty walking can also lead to further injuries due to falling.
Other symptoms include
- Acute or chronic pain
- Cognitive issues with concentration and memory
This condition can also give rise to speech disorders.
Your doctor will have to perform a neurological exam, request your clinical history, and order a series of tests to determine if you have MS.
Diagnostic Testing May Include:
- Using a contrast dye with an MRI lets your doctor detect active and inactive lesions throughout your brain and spinal cord.
- OCT is a test that takes a picture of nerve layers in the back of your eye which can assess any thinning of the optic nerve.
- Your doctor might also order a spinal tap to find abnormalities in your spinal fluid which can help rule out infectious diseases and be used to look for OCBs.
- Doctors may also order blood tests to help eliminate conditions with similar symptoms.
An MS diagnosis needs some evidence of demyelination happening at different times in more than just one area of your brain, spinal cord, or optic nerves. A diagnosis may also require ruling out any other conditions that have similar symptoms like Lyme disease, lupus, and Sjögren’s syndrome.
There isn’t a cure currently available for MS, but multiple treatment options exist.
While there are FDA approved drugs available, not all MS drugs will be available or appropriate for every person. Speak with your doctor about which drugs work best for you and the risks and benefits of every single one.