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Multiple Sclerosis and Lifestyle Challenges

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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disorder and disease that affects the central nervous system.  The immune system somehow identifies and attacks the surrounding nerve cables (axons), leading to inflammation and injury of the brain and spinal cords cable systems.  This has a direct impact on the body’s ability to see, feel, move, and/or loss of muscle control, balance, strength and bodily functions.  When the nervous system experiences this type of damage internally it is much like an electrical wire that shorts to ground.  As your bodies movement is dependent on neuron-electrical paths; if they are compromised, electricity does not go/or not enough, or too much where needed.  When this occurs electrical signals can completely misfire and fire to parts of the body that further complicates and creates other health concerns.

 Symptoms include: Painful muscle spasm, facial pain, numbness, tingling, crawling or burning in any area of body, especially arms, or legs.  Or create problems for any type of movement and/or creates muscle weakness.  Incontinence can occur and/or a need to urinate frequently.  Urination can also be painful or a burning sensation.  Constipation and stool leakage also presents problems for many.  Other symptoms of MS:  Rapid eye movement, eye discomfort in general, or vision loss; decreased reasoning, solving skills, or memory lapses and poor judgment; hearing loss, dizziness, or depression.  To include difficult speech patterns, chewing or swallowing.  Also one can experience problems with erections, or vaginal lubrication. 

    Since the nervous system is our electrical wire way from the brain to the rest of our bodies functional parts; if the damaged myelin sheaths (our bodies nerves insulation) is compromised and shorts to other parts of the body the intended movement does not work according to plan.  As a matter of fact, the compromised electrical neural wire way can create many possible problems throughout the body.  After all, the electrical stimulus response is either voluntary [the brain thinks the movement], or involuntary [independent autonomic nervous system – The brain’s Central Nervous System (CNS) self regulates vital organs outside of our control].

    With MS, movement is now partially, or fully uncontrolled voltage [also called action potential] that may, or may not send electrical voltage to the intended body area.  And voltage leakage from a breach in the neural highways is known as demyelination of the neuron protective sheath.  Much like a conductive wire has a plastic coat around copper wire; neurons have a protective “myelin” sheath to keep the voltage inside the conductive neuron highway.  The myelin sheath ensures the electrical signals from the brain reach the intended body area destination.  MS symptoms worsen when the brain can no longer effectively send signals down through the spinal cord to communicate with distal neuron conductors (long neural pathways, e.g.,  to arms, legs).

To summarize:  When a person is diagnosed with MS, the cause of symptoms is due to the myelin insulation of conductive nerves from the brain to the spinal cord and subordinate neuron systems have developed scars (scleroses, plaques or lesions).  These scars occur when the body’s immune system attacks and damages the body’s protective myelin sheaths (Hence:  Demyelination). 

    To date, there is no cure for MS.  However, if the current treatment offered is followed as prescribed, functionality can be maximized and new attacks can be minimized to slow down the progression of disability(s).  It is also true some patients have very bad tolerance to conventional treatments.  When this is the case other alternative treatments are sought.

    The prognosis of MS is difficult to determine as the progression of this disease on the nervous systems can take one of several subtype courses.

Prognosis & Symptoms:  Some MS patients experience acute flare-ups in hours, or days.  This is referred to as a relapse, or attack.  Many of those that begin to experience MS symptoms include painful eye movement (optic neuritis).  And for others, symptoms may return within weeks, or even years and through time more MS complications arise.  This is called ‘relapsing remitting’.

     A good prognosis of the condition is visual loss, whereas numbness, gait disturbance and weakness are rather poor prognoses.   In other words, a poor prognosis of functional deterioration and life expectancy seems to correlate with numbness, poor gait and balance; where loss of eye sight does not.

     For a period of time during remittance and then relapse; this cycle can occur for years where the patient experiences similar superimposed relapses.  However, through time these superimposed relapse subside slowly and is indicative of a worsening MS condition.  This is called secondary chronic-progressive, or secondary progressive with/without bouts of relapsing remitting superimposed symptoms [which are known as relapsing progressive].

     During the relapsing remitting stage of initial MS disease, the statistical time duration for the need of a wheelchair is 20 years. For primary progressive conditions, a wheelchair will be needed after almost 6-7 years. Physical limitations caused by this condition are seen in about 70% of the patients.

 General MS Stat’s – Symptoms of this neurological disease comes in many forms that appear to come and go at will within the early stages (relapsing forms).  Or the progression can become accumulative over time.  The progressive MS form creates permanent neurological damage for many.  For primary progressive MS there is typically a need after diagnosis for a mobile scooter or wheel chair. 

     Two thirds of MS patients with minimal disability after 5 years will not show deterioration of condition within the following ten years.  Also one in every three patients is able to work 15-20 years before significant disabilities occur.  And 70% of all diagnosed with MS are living 25- 35 years after the diagnosis.   The average life expectancy of those diagnosed live 10-15 years less than those that never acquire the disease.

 Mortality – Ten percent of MS cases flare into chronic progression without relapses from earlier symptoms.  Less than 5% of those with severe progressive MS die within 5 years.  For most with MS, they live fairly normal lives and suffer bouts of relapsing remitting conditions that can be controlled with treatment. Up to 20% of those diagnosed with MS have a slow, to no progression of symptoms.   Although this disease does impact men, it is most prominent in young adults and women.  For most deaths regarding our youth after MS diagnosis, death appears to be from suicide.

 Treatment & Lifestyle – The statistical data provided was acquired before the introduction of immunomodulatory drugs 10 years ago. The advent of these drugs has delayed the progression for patients over several years. A lot of research, clinical study and experiments are being carried out on a continuous basis for multiple sclerosis prevention.  At present there are no clinically established laboratory research details available for present prognosis in multiple sclerosis.   However, it appears if you acquire MS the majority will live full productive quality lifestyles with varying disability challenges.

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Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET.  2011 Copyright, All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @: www.mirrorathlete.org,  Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.