Understanding Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediated process that causes an abnormal response directed towards the central nervous system. It can cause a disruption of information within the brain and/or between the brain and spinal cord.

More than one million people in the United States live with MS. Knowing common signs and symptoms, at-risk demographics and treatment options for MS can help the community better understand and help others diagnosed with the disease.

Common symptoms of MS include:

  • Numbness or tingling.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Vision problems such as eye pain or unusual eye movements.
  • Dizziness.
  • Difficulty speaking or walking.
  • Incontinence.
  • Temperature sensitivity.
  • Brain fog.

Not everyone with MS will experience all of the symptoms listed. These symptoms are also associated with diseases other than MS, so it is important to check with a medical provider to determine the cause of the symptoms.

The cause of MS is unknown, yet, experts believe different genetic and environmental factors can increase one’s chances of developing the disease. For example, women are three times more likely to develop MS compared to men. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, this suggests that hormones may play a role in who is most susceptible to MS. Other at-risk demographics include those who live in locations farthest from the equator, are between 20-50 years of age, experienced obesity in childhood and adolescence and have low vitamin D levels in their blood.

Those diagnosed with MS should communicate with their medical expert to discuss medication options. Medications are used to help modify the disease course, treat relapses and manage symptoms. They are also encouraged to implement healthy lifestyle habits such as not smoking and weight management practices.

MS looks and behaves differently in everyone. Whether you have been diagnosed or a loved one, having the general knowledge of how the disease may affect someone can help you better navigate life with MS.

Shelly Lehmann is an advanced practice registered nurse with ProMedica Physicians Family Medicine in Fremont, Ohio. Learn more about MS and MS care on ProMedica’s website.