Byline: Gary S Sy, MD
NERVE tracts, or pathways, in the brain and spinal cord are sheathed in a covering called myelin. The myelin sheath acts as an insulating material and enables speedy passage of electrical impulses along the nerves. If the sheath becomes inflamed and swollen, and if this affects a number of nerve tracts in different parts of your central nervous system, you may have the disease known as multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is a progressive, degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, including the brain, optic nerve, and the spinal cord. Any part of the brain can be affected. The underlying cause of multiple sclerosis is not known, but there is evidence that a reaction of the bodyas own immune system occurs that causes destruction of some myelin segments.
Current research is evaluating whether this immune destruction occurs as a result of a viral infection or a disorder of the bodyas immune system. Stress and malnutrition, whether from poor absorption or poor diet, often precede the onset of the disease. Heredity may also be a factor. Another theory is that this disease is caused by food intolerances or allergies, especially allergies to dairy products. Chemical poisoning of the nervous system by pesticides, industrial chemicals, and heavy metals may also play a part in the development of multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis is usually diagnosed between the ages of twenty five and forty. Women are affected nearly twice as often as men are. Multiple sclerosis is rarely diagnosed in children and in people over six years of age.
What are the symptoms?
Myelin is so widespread in the nervous system and nervous system so widespread in the body, which multiple sclerosis can show up in many different ways. Most commonly it begins with a vague, brief symptom that clears up completely within a few days or weeks. For example, you may get a feeling of tingling and numbness or weakness that may affect only one spot, one arm or leg, or one side of the body. Temporary weakness of an arm or leg may cause you to drop things or drag your foot. This type of symptom may be apparent after a hot bath or exercise.
Other possible indications of multiple sclerosis include ataxia (unsteadiness of movement), temporary blurring of vision, blurred speech, and either difficulty or lack of control in urinating.
The disease follows a pattern of periodic flareups, called exacerbation, followed by periods in which symptoms diminish or even disappear. Multiple sclerosis is variable in its rate of progression. It can be relatively benign, with only a few minor attacks spread over decades, or it can be rapidly and completely disabling. Most commonly, it progresses slowly, disappearing for periods of time but returning intermittently, often in progressively more severe attacks. …