Have you or someone you love been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS)? You aren’t alone. The National MS Society has now confirmed that almost one million Americans have MS.

Learning about the MS basics helps you become an active participant in your care. For many people, knowing about the disease and treatments also decreases their anxiety.

Continue reading this article to learn about multiple sclerosis and how it’s treated.

What Is Multiple Sclerosis?

MS describes a disease of the nervous system including your brain and spinal cord. Each nerve is surrounded and protected by a special material called the myelin sheath. MS causes damage to the myelin sheath slowing or blocking messages between the brain to the body.

To date, the cause of MS is unknown and there’s no cure. It is an autoimmune disease which means the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells.

More women between the ages of 20 and 40 years are diagnosed with MS than men. The disease usually presents in a mild form, but some individuals have more serious symptoms.

The MS Basics Real Life Experience

Many people describe problems with their vision, thinking, and memory. They may notice muscle weakness, trouble with balance and coordination, numbness, prickling, or “pins and needles”. MS may cause an inability to speak, write, or even walk.

Jamie-Lynn Sigler, an actress from Sopranos, said it’s hard to walk for long periods of time and stairs are difficult. She must carefully think about every step.

Meagan Freeman, a family nurse practitioner, struggles psychologically every day, even during remission. She changed her diet and tries to decrease stress. Freeman now says “no” to stay healthy.

How Is MS Treated?

Research has discovered that most of the damage occurs within the first year of the disease. An individual’s multiple sclerosis treatment depends on how the disease impacts them over time. Classifications of MS include:

Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS)

About 85% of patients are diagnosed with RRMS at first. They experience periods of remission and relapse during which new symptoms may develop.

Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS)

With SPMS, symptoms slowly increase over time. They may or may not experience remission and relapse.

Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS)

Only about 10% of people have this type of MS. The patient’s symptoms progress without remission or relapse.

Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS)

This form of MS only occurs in about 5% of patients. Symptoms continue increasing with acute relapses. There’s no remission or recovery from these relapses.

Treatment approaches include:

Beta interferons and Glatiramer acetate treat relapsing-remitting MS. They are also used following the first MRI indicating MS.

Fingolimod, Dimethyl fumarate, and Fingolimod are indicated for relapsing types of MS.

Mitoxantrone is a chemotherapeutic agent used for worsening symptoms. This includes relapsing-remitting, progressive-relapsing, or secondary-progressive types of MS.

Natalizumab is only used for rapidly progressing MS. For example, with high disease activity and lack of response to other treatments.

Do You or Someone You Know Have MS?

Receiving an MS diagnosis is scary. This article discussed the MS basics. Increased understanding of MS and treatments provide a sense of control.

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