Multiple sclerosis (MS), also known as disseminated sclerosis or encephalomyelitis disseminata, is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) in which the protective sheath(myelin) that covers nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This damage can affect the communication function of parts of the nervous system, causing many different signs and symptoms, including physical, mental, and sometimes psychiatric problems.
What's the cause of Multiple Sclerosis?
The cause of MS remains unknown, but it's widely accepted that it occurs due to some combination of genetic and environmental factors such as infectious agents. Researchers haven't manage to combine the data into probable explanations. In order to determine whether the elimination can prevent MS, more research has to be done despite many environmental risk factors.
Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis
The diagnosis of MS is mainly based on the presenting signs and symptoms, together with reference of medical imaging and laboratory testing. It's hard to make confirmation because the symptoms might be similar to those of other diseases, especially in its early stage. However, the most commonly used diagnosis method is the McDonald criteria, which focus on clinical, laboratory, and radiologic evidence of lesions at different times and in different areas.
If one has already had several episodes neurological symptoms characteristic of MS, then only clinical data alone can be enough for a diagnosis. But for those who only had one attack, it's necessary to have other testing for the diagnosis. The main diagnostic tools include neuroimaging, analysis of cerebrospinal fluid and evoked potentials. MRI The demyelination (lesions or plaques) of brain and spine can be detected by MRI.
Clinical course of Multiple Sclerosis
Several phenotypes or patterns of progression have been described to use the past course of the disease to predict the future course. They are important not only for prognosis but also for treatment decisions. In 1996, the United States National Multiple Sclerosis Society described four clinical courses.
1. relapsing-remitting (RRMS)
2. secondary progressive (SPMS)
3. primary progressive (PPMS)
4. progressive relapsing.
Progression of Multiple Sclerosis
The factors that affect the expected future course of MS mainly include the subtype of disease, patient's gender, age and initial signs and symptoms and disability degree. The average life expectancy is around 30 years from the onset of the disease, which is 5 to 10 years less than that of unaffected population. Nearly 40% of MS patients can reach their seventies of life. However, the consequences of the disease can directly result in two-thirds of the deaths. Though complications such as infections are particularly lethal for the disabled MS patients, suicide is becoming more often.