MS is a chronic neurological illness involving the central nervous system. The immune system attacks myelin, which is the protective layer around nerve fibres. This causes inflammation and scar tissue, or lesions. This can make it hard for your brain to send signals to the rest of your body. There are different types of MS.
The two types of episodes are monofocal and multifocal. A monofocal episode means one lesion causes one symptom. A multifocal episode means you have more than one lesion and more than one symptom.
Primary-progressive MS (PPMS)
Neurological function becomes progressively worse from the onset of your symptoms if you have PPMS. However, short periods of stability can still occur.
Progressive-relapsing MS was a term people previously used for progressive MS with clear relapses. People now call it PPMS. The words “active” and “not active” are used to describe disease activity.
Secondary-progressive MS (SPMS)
SPMS occurs when RRMS transitions into the progressive form. You may still have noticeable relapses, in addition to gradual worsening of function or disability.
What are the symptoms of MS?
People with MS experience a wide range of symptoms. Due to the nature of the disease, it can vary widely from one person to another. The symptoms can change in severity from year to year, month to month, and even day to day.
Two of the most common symptoms are fatigue and difficulty walking.
About 80 percent of people with MS report having fatigue. Fatigue that occurs with MS is more than feeling tired. It can become debilitating, affecting your ability to work and perform everyday tasks.
Difficulty walking can occur with MS for a number of reasons:
- numbness of the legs or feet
- difficulty balancing
- muscle weakness
- muscle spasticity
Overwhelming fatigue can also contribute to the problem. Difficulty walking can lead to injuries due to falling.
Other fairly common symptoms of MS include:
- speech disorders
- cognitive issues involving concentration, memory, and problem-solving skills
- acute or chronic pain
Treatment for multiple sclerosis
No cure is available for MS, but multiple treatment options exist.
Your doctor can prescribe corticosteroids, to treat relapses.
Other treatments may ease your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Because the disease is different for everybody, treatment depends on your specific symptoms. For most people, a flexible approach is necessary.
Early signs of MS
MS can develop all at once, or the symptoms can be so mild that you easily dismiss them. Any symptom can occur first. The following are three of the most common early symptoms of MS:
- Strange sensations, such as numbness and tingling of the arms, legs, or one side of your face can occur. It’s similar to that of feeling of pins and needles you get when your foot falls asleep, but it occurs for no apparent reason.
- Your balance may be a bit off, and your legs may feel week. You may find yourself tripping easily while walking or doing some other type of physical activity.
- A bout of double vision, blurry vision, or partial vision loss can be an early indicator of MS. You could also have some eye pain.
It isn’t uncommon for these early symptoms to go away only to return at a later date. You may go weeks, months, or even years between symptom flare-ups.
These symptoms can have many different causes. If you have these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have MS.
The diagnosis of MS requires evidence of demyelination in more than one area of the brain, spinal cord, or optic nerves. That damage must have occurred at different times.
It also requires ruling out other conditions that have similar symptoms. This includes Lyme disease, lupus, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
What causes multiple sclerosis?
If you have MS, the myelin in your body becomes damaged. Myelin is the protective layer that covers nerve fibers throughout the central nervous system.
It’s thought that the damage is the result of an attack by the immune system. As your immune system attacks myelin, it causes inflammation. This leads to scar tissue, or lesions. All of that inflammation and scar tissue disrupts signals between the brain and other parts of your body.
It isn’t clear what may cause the immune system to attack.
Researchers think there could be an environmental trigger such as a virus or toxin that sets off the immune system attack.
Progressive MS generally advances faster than relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). People with RRMS can be in remission for many years. A lack of disability after five years is usually a good indicator for the future.
The disease generally progresses faster in men than in women. It may also progress faster in those who receive a diagnosis after age 40 and in those who have a high relapse rate.
About half of people with MS use a cane or other form of assistance at 15 years after receiving an MS diagnosis. At 20 years, about 60 percent are still ambulatory and less than 15 percent need custodial care.
Your quality of life will depend on your symptoms and how well you respond to treatment. Most people with MS don’t become severely disabled and continue to lead full lives.
Living with MS
Most people with MS find ways to manage their symptoms and function well. You’ll face unique challenges, and those can change over time. Many people with MS share their struggles and coping strategies through in-person or online support groups.
Regular exercise is important for physical and mental health, even if you have disabilities. If physical movement is difficult, swimming or exercising in a swimming pool can help. Yoga classes range from beginner to advanced levels, and some are designed just for people with MS.
Studies regarding the effectiveness of complementary therapies are scarce, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help in some way. At Olab we treat clients with MS in many ways, working closely with our physiotherapy colleagues, we can apply, modify and customise both therapy programs and orthotic devices to reduce the fatigue and aid in your mobility.
Some of the orthoses may include:
- Leafspring AFO’s
- Carbon fibre AFO various designs dependent on the advancement of the symptoms
- Dictus bands
- Hip Flexion Assist Device (HFAD)
- FES systems
The following may help you feel less stressed and more relaxed:
- tai chi
- music therapy
MS is a lifelong condition. You should focus on communicating concerns with your doctor, learning all you can about MS, and discovering what things make you feel your best.
Mobility issues can also lead to a lack of physical activity, which can lead to other health problems. Having other conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis can complicate matters.
How can OLAB can help?
Orthotic Consultation discuss enhancing your mobility whilst dealing with MS can be arranged with our qualified clinical team – contact us for more information on what is available or to book.