When the body turns on itself, it can be as devastating as
outside forces. Autoimmune diseases are diseases where the
body actually targets normal cells for destruction — a haunting
prospect for a system created to protect and defend the body
from harmful invasion. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an example
of things gone awry. However, today with the vast amount of
resources available for the research, treatment and supportive
care of patients with MS, the picture is far from bleak. The
course of MS varies greatly from person to person with
progression of the disease and relapse of symptoms. The range
of disease progression can go from benign symptoms with little
or no disability to a severe progressive form of the disease.
Some of the symptoms experienced with MS are weakness in
one or more limbs, double or blurring of vision,
tingling, dizziness or loss of balance and tremors.
In multiple sclerosis, the brain and spinal cord
are damaged by the body’s own immune system.
In the simplest terms, a protective sheath called
myelin covers your nerves, and in a process called
demyelination, the body attacks and damages the
sheath. The purpose of the myelin is to facilitate
the transmission of electrical signals along the
nerve cells. The disruption of this communication
pathway is what results in symptoms of MS, such
as loss of muscle control with impaired mobility,
speech, vision and balance.
Facing possible immobility or disability can
be overwhelming. Information can provide a
foundation of hope that life can be as normal
as possible. For those coping with this disease,
perhaps the most important resource available to
them is a health care provider specializing in the treatment of
multiple sclerosis. When developing a treatment plan, educating
family and close friends to this disease will be beneficial in
allowing the patient to live a more productive and active lifestyle.
Joining support groups and even using online chat rooms
devoted to this issue can be greatly beneficial to a patient’s
well-being. Many of these resources serve a great need for
family members who must learn how to cope with the changing
environment of MS. Communicating with others who deal with
this can be a source of comfort, strength and support. In talking
to others, many will find there is great reason to hope and, even
to rejoice, at the many breakthroughs in this area.
With the assistance of fundraisers, research continues to rapidly
advance for more viable therapies, new drug treatments and
possibly a cure. Being aware of the manifestations of this illness
can help prepare you to be as active as possible every day.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute medical
advice. Consult with your physician if you have questions regarding this topic.
Written by Betty Tryon, R.N.