What is Multiple
unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, Multiple Sclerosis
(MS) can range from relatively benign to somewhat disabling to
devastating, as communication between the brain and other parts of the
body is disrupted.
Many investigators believe MS to be an autoimmune
disease -- one in which the body, through its immune system, launches a
defensive attack against its own tissues. In the case of MS, it is the
nerve-insulating myelin that comes under assault. Such assaults may be
linked to an unknown environmental trigger, perhaps a virus.
people experience their first symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis between the ages of 20 and
40; the initial symptom of MS is often blurred or double vision, red-green
color distortion, or even blindness in one eye. Most MS patients
experience muscle weakness in their extremities and difficulty with
coordination and balance.
These symptoms may be severe enough to
impair walking or even standing. In the worst cases, MS can produce
partial or complete paralysis. Most people with Multiple Sclerosis also exhibit
paresthesias, transitory abnormal sensory feelings such as numbness,
prickling, or "pins and needles" sensations.
Some may also
experience pain. Speech impediments, tremors, and dizziness are
other frequent complaints. Occasionally, people with MS have hearing loss.
Approximately half of all people with MS experience cognitive impairments
such as difficulties with concentration, attention, memory, and poor
judgment, but such symptoms are usually mild and are frequently
overlooked. Depression is another common feature of MS.
is as yet no cure for MS. Many patients do well with no therapy at all,
especially since many medications have serious side effects and some
carry significant risks. However, three forms of beta interferon (Avonex,
Betaseron, and Rebif) have now been approved by the Food and Drug
Administration for treatment of relapsing-remitting MS.
has been shown to reduce the number of exacerbations and may slow the
progression of physical disability. When attacks do occur, they tend to
be shorter and less severe. The FDA also has approved a synthetic
form of myelin basic protein, called copolymer I (Copaxone), for the
treatment of relapsing-remitting MS.
Copolymer I has few side effects,
and studies indicate that the agent can reduce the relapse rate by
almost one third. An immunosuppressant treatment, Novantrone
(mitoxantrone ), is approved by the FDA
for the treatment of advanced or chronic MS.
steroids do not affect the course of MS over time, they can reduce the
duration and severity of attacks in some patients. Spasticity,
which can occur either as a sustained stiffness caused by increased
muscle tone or as spasms that come and go, is usually treated with
muscle relaxants and tranquilizers such as baclofen, tizanidine,
diazepam, clonazepam, and dantrolene.
Physical therapy and exercise can
help preserve remaining function, and patients may find that various
aids -- such as foot braces, canes, and walkers -- can help them remain
independent and mobile. Avoiding excessive activity and avoiding
heat are probably the most important measures patients can take to
counter physiological fatigue.
If psychological symptoms of
fatigue such as depression or apathy are evident, antidepressant
medications may help. Other drugs that may reduce fatigue in some,
but not all, patients include amantadine (Symmetrel), pemoline (Cylert),
and the still-experimental drug aminopyridine. Although improvement of
optic symptoms usually occurs even without treatment, a short course of
treatment with intravenous methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol) followed by
treatment with oral steroids is sometimes used.
physician may diagnose MS in some patients soon after the onset of the
illness. In others, however, doctors may not be able to readily identify
the cause of the symptoms, leading to years of uncertainty and multiple
diagnoses punctuated by baffling symptoms that mysteriously wax and
The vast majority of patients are mildly affected, but in
the worst cases, MS can render a person unable to write, speak, or walk.
MS is a disease with a natural tendency to remit spontaneously, for
which there is no universally effective treatment.
research is being done?
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and
other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct
research in laboratories at the NIH and also support additional research
through grants to major medical institutions across the country.
Scientists continue their extensive efforts to create new and better
therapies for MS. One of the most promising MS research areas
involves naturally occurring antiviral proteins known as interferons.
Beta interferon has been shown to reduce the number of exacerbations and
may slow the progression of physical disability. When attacks do occur,
they tend to be shorter and less severe.
In addition, there are a
number of treatments under investigation that may curtail attacks or
improve function. Over a dozen clinical trials testing potential
therapies are underway, and additional new treatments are being devised
and tested in animal models.
Special Education & Rehabilitative Services Communications
& Customer Service Team
550 12th Street, SW, Rm. 5133
Washington, DC 20202-2550
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Essential Tremor Foundation
P.O. Box 14005
Lenexa, KS 66285-4005
Tel: 913-341-3880 888-387-3667
Association of America
706 Haddonfield Road
Cherry Hill, NJ 08002
Tel: 856-488-4500 800-532-7667
6350 North Andrews Avenue
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309-2130
Tel: 954-776-6805 888-MSFOCUS (673-6287)
733 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017-3288
Tel: 212-986-3240 800-344-4867 (FIGHTMS)
Related Diseases Association
22100 Gratiot Avenue
East Detroit, MI 48201-2227
Tel: 586-776-3900 800-598-4668
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© Anthony George 2005
Multiple Sclerosis Sponsor Love My Town