What is MS?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the most common neurological condition affecting young people in Tasmania.
It is considered to be an autoimmune condition, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own myelin, the protective covering of nerves in the central nervous system (CNS). The cause of the disease is unknown – although current research suggests that environmental and genetic factors play a part in the cause of the disease. MS gets its name because multiple areas of the brain and spinal cord are affected and this results in the development of sclerosis (scar tissue) in damaged areas of the brain and spinal cord.
The myelin assists with the transmission of nerve signals to and from the brain. Recurrent attacks of MS break down the myelin (a process called demyelination) and it begins to disappear, being replaced by scar tissue (also known as plaques). With the loss of myelin, there is a disruption or blocking of nerve impulses resulting in symptoms such as muscle weakness, pins and needles, numbness, loss of balance and coordination, and blurred or double vision.
No two people experience the same set of symptoms and any one person might experience different symptoms at different times. MS is a very individual disease that affects each person differently and to varying degrees.
Learning to live with and manage the disease can be a major challenge for the person with MS and their family, having to cope with an often unpredictable condition. Because of the complexity of these issues, there is no straight-forward approach to dealing with them. Discussions with MS Society health professionals can be extremely helpful in recognising all the possible options and in highlighting the preferred course of action.
Reproduced from Information Sheet 1 (MS: A history of the disease), © the MS Society of Victoria.
Today, the medical profession is able to assemble an accurate description of the disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
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