What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease of demyelination of the central nervous system. That is, a disease in which the myelin sheath of the nerves in the brain and the spinal cord are injured at a number of foci (called "plaques"). These "plaques" are concentrated in the "white material" of the brain and the spinal cord, in particular surrounding the chambers of the brain and the visual nerves. The white material of the brain is all the area in which there is a high density of myelin-enveloped fibers; in the nature of things, since in these same areas there are few neurons (which are located in the "grey matter" in the brain covering), multiple sclerosis affects only the "branching/projections" of the fiber cells, and in most cases, therefore, does not cause severe cognitive damage as is found in Alzheimer's.
What causes the disease?
Multiple sclerosis is considered an inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the myelin self proteins. Due to the injury in the myelin which acts as a protective envelope on all the fibers of the nerves and as "insulation" material which enables the transfer of electrical signals, this will result in disturbances in the transfer of electrical "messages" within the brain and the spinal cord and defects/disturbances in the functioning of one or more nervous systems like the motor system, sensory system, stability and coordination system, vision, sphincter, eye movement, etc.
Who gets multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis generally strikes people in their twenties and thirties. The disease is more common in people of European extraction than in people of African or Far Eastern extraction. There is a connection between the disease and the geographical area in which the patient lived in the first years of his life. There is a higher frequency of the disease in women than in men.
What are the symptoms of the disease?
The common symptoms (the clinical phenomena) of multiple sclerosis include sense disturbances ("pins and needles"), vision disturbances (blurring and double vision), limb weakness, instability and lack of coordination and disturbances in sphincter control.
The Disease Process
Multiple sclerosis is a variable disease and its progression differs greatly from patient to patient. Not all patients hit with the disease will get to a stage of needing assistance in walking or paralysis. A significant number of patients do not suffer from disturbances in essential functions even many years after the onset of the disease and perhaps never will. The rest of the patients suffer from an acute disease (benign multiple sclerosis) or an advancing/progressive disease. In some of the patients the disease begins as an acute disease and then with time becomes progressive (secondary progressive).