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Twelve must-know facts about multiple sclerosis, the second most common cause of neurological disorders

by , 14 November 2016
Twelve must-know facts about multiple sclerosis, the second most common cause of neurological disorders
Did you know that the autoimmune disease known as multiple sclerosis (or MS) is the second most common cause of neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease, neuroinfections, brain tumours and traumatic disorders of the nervous system in adults?

But if you catch it early, you can still lead a full, successful and satisfying life!

On that note, I'm sharing twelve things that local neurologist Dr Dominic Giampaolo thinks you should know about the often misunderstood disease...

Twelve things you should know about multiple sclerosis

1. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own white blood cells, which normally protect the body from infections and cancers, attack and damage nerve cells in the central nervous system.
2. The immune cells destroy the fatty sheath that surrounds and insulates the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord (CNS), interrupting efficient communication between cells and resulting in progressive decline of neurological and cognitive function.
3. Symptoms are variable depending on the location of the damage in the central nervous system. Initial symptoms may include double vision, blurred vision or sudden vision loss; fatigue; difficulties with balance and walking; spasticity; bladder and/or bowel dysfunction (for example, incontinence); pain and sexual dysfunction. Exercise, stress and heat may make symptoms worse.

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4. Most people with MS (90%) have a ‘relapsing-remitting’ form characterised by periods of symptoms that resolve spontaneously within 4 to 12 weeks. These are followed by a period of remission lasting months to years during which no new symptoms develop. However, with time (years), if the MS remains untreated, it usually will progress to a form where the symptoms do not resolve and slowly become worse.
5. The exact cause of MS is unknown. Genetic factors contribute to MS risk and people with a first degree relative are approximately 9 times more likely to develop MS than those without MS in the family. Other factors that are thought to play a role include sunlight exposure, vitamin D deficiency, smoking and infection with the Epstein Barr virus (EBV).
6. Second only to trauma, MS is the second most common cause of neurological disability in young adults.
7. The exact number of people with MS in South Africa is unknown, but it is estimated that there are 2.5 million people affected worldwide The number of people who are developing MS every year is increasing, especially among women.
8. MS is most common among people of Northern Europe and is uncommon in people of African descent.
9. Most people with MS are 20 to 50 years of age; 75% are women.

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10. The diagnosis of MS is made by identifying recurring or progressive symptoms and by demonstrating lesions in the CNS with radiological imaging (e.g. magnetic resonance imaging, MRI).1  
11. Goals of treatment include treating symptoms, preventing progression, reducing the number of relapses and helping people with MS cope with the psychological burden of the disease (for example, depression and worry about how MS will affect life).
12. With early diagnosis and treatment, people with MS can live a full, successful and satisfying life, with a normal life-span and without physical disability.

Go here for the twelve key lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your multiple sclerosis symptoms in no time!

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