Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system and believed to be an autoimmune disease as well. An autoimmune disease arises from an inappropriate immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body.
In the case of Multiple Sclerosis, the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, also called myelin, are damaged. One can compare Myelin to the insulation on electrical wires. When myelin is damaged, the messages that travel along that nerve may be slowed or blocked. Symptoms of MS may include:
- Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs
- Double or blurring of vision
- Tingling, pins and needles sensation or pain in parts of your body
- Electric-shock sensations that occur with bending head backwards
- Tremor, lack of co-ordination or unsteady gait
- Slurred speech or problems when swallowing
These symptoms consistent with MS have been studied and researched for centuries in order to determine the causes and progression of the disease. Treatment has improved to help patients to live a normal life as possible.
1838-1868: Some of the first autopsy reports dates back to 1838. The reports included detailed images of the bodies of the deceased revealing what we now understand to be areas ‘’plaques’ or scar tissue caused by inflammation of the brain. In 1868, an association was made by a French professor named Jean-Martin Charcot between the plaques he saw in an autopsy with the tremors, slurred speech, and irregular eye movements from which the deceased woman suffered but he didn’t know what caused the mysterious disease.
1870s: MS was officially recognized as a disease in its own right in the 1870s.
1930s: Medical breakthroughs like to view cells under a microscope helped the medical community to study the progression and symptoms of MS. It was also now possible to detect abnormalities in spinal cord fluid and record electrical activity of the nerves.
1960s: One theory made more concrete in the 1960s was the idea that the immune system attacked the myelin coating of the nerves, and therefore acted like an autoimmune disease.
1980s: In 1981 the first MRI was used to view the brain of someone with multiple sclerosis.
The University of Maryland Medical Centre stated that the majority of patients with MS can look forward to a normal, or very close to normal, life span. People diagnosed with MS tend to pass away from other conditions rather than MS, making it vital to understand this condition. Some of the reasons why people pass away include heart disease and cancer, and not necessarily MS itself. Except for patients with severe MS, life expectancy can be quite good and treatments can be very effective indeed.
In our modern day and age, living with MS has become more manageable and the life expectancy of patients are increasing. However, there is currently no cure for MS, making it vital to get the right treatment and make the necessary lifestyle changes so that you can live a full life.
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