Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What is MS?

Current Meds:
1. Prednisone (12 tablets {60mg} in morning for 2 weeks then 4 tablets {20mg})
2. Citalopram 10mg once daily
3. Lorazepam 1mg at bedtime

Current Symptoms
Physical: fatigue - mild to heavy in mornings and late evening,
Sensory: Optic neuritis in left eye (causing pain)
Psychological (memory/mood): Slight difficulty getting thoughts in order
Medication side effect?: anxiety, rapid pulse, aggitated, blurry vision

I've been talking a lot about my diagnosis and my symptoms but I'd like to go into some detial here about what exactly the disease is. This is important because for me, at least, the disease didn't really sink in until I began my research and realized the seriousness of what was happening in my brain and spinal cord. Now, there are lots of places on the internet to go to for resource but as I've learned in my academic study we must be wary of internet sources. So my aim here is to bring most of what I know together and offer some direction through the mountain of information available on the silver thread.

(For reference, a lot of my material and information is coming from information provided to me by doctors and the MS clinic.)

What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often progressive disorder that involves inflammation and destruction of the myelin [a layer of insulation that helps electrical messages travel from the CNS to other parts of the body] on nerve fibers (axons) in the brain and spinal cord. (See diagram: http://www.unsermobile-augsburg.de/ms_was/) The demyelination and scarring (sclerosis - hense, multiple sclerosis) of nerve fibers in the brain interrupts with the flow or delivery of the messages the brain sends to the body. The messages, depending on the type of damage, can be mixed up, slowed down, or blocked entirely. The nerves themselves can also become damaged. MS sometimes follows a pattern of relapses followed by periods of remission. The course of the disease is unpredictable, and damage to myelin may occur with each attack. Although there is no cure, treatments may help to slow the progress of the disease by reducing the frequency and severity of the attacks and even delay increasing disability.

MS is a complex disease that appears in many forms. There are 4 major types:

1. Relapsing-remitting (RRMS) is the most common. RRMS patients experience acute symptoms with periods of recovery in between. The return of new or worsening syptoms is called a relapse.

2. Primary progressive (PPMS) causes a gradual worsening of symptoms over time. Fewer than 15% of MS patients will develop PPMS, although this is the most common form for patients diagnosed after 40.

3. Secondary progressive (SPMS) begins as RRMS and then progresses with time. The patient may experience relapses with worsening symptoms and occasional recovery periods.

4. First Demyelination Event (FDE) refers to an early MS symptom such as optic neuritis that may show on an abnormal MRI typical to MS. Patients in this category have a 90% chance of developing MS.

Some fast facts about MS:
* MS is not contagious.
* It is not a mental illness.
* It is not hereditary (in the usual sense).
* It is not preventable.
* Each case is unique and unpredictable.
* Canadians have one of the highest rates of MS in the world.
* Each day in Cananda 3 more people learn that they have MS.

What causes MS?

The exact cause of MS is not known. The best theory out now is that MS is probably an autoimmune disease. That means that your body's own immune system is attacking itself--in the case of MS, the body becomes allergic to itself for unknown reasons and the immune system attacks the myelin. Although MS is not hereditary genetics do play a role. For women with MS, the likelihood of passing the condition on to her children is only 2-4%. The children of men with MS are slightly less likely to develop the disease. Certain genetic populations, such as northern European backgrounds, are more susceptible to MS. The disease also occurs more frequently in countries that are farther away from the equator. Some believe a viral infection, such as chickenpox or measles, may trigger MS in susceptible people; a childhood infection may not set off MS until years later. It is believed that the infectious agent contains a protein that mimics myelin. This foreign protein prompts an immune response that is aimed at eliminating the infectious agent but ultimately attacks the body's own nerve cells and tissues. It is very likely that a combined set of probabilities, such as the ones discussed above, may be required in a person to develop the disease--that is: viral infection, unknown autoimmunity, and genetic disposition.

A few more MS facts:
* MS affects about 50,000 people in Canada.
* MS affects about 350,000 people in the US.
* MS affects about 300 people in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
* It is typically a disease afflicting young adults in their career and family building years, between 20 and 40 years of age.
* All races are affected but it is more common among Caucasians, especially those of Northern European descent.

I hope this has been useful. For more information visit the Canadian MS Society web page in the links section.


At 4:45 PM, Blogger michelletat said...

Hey Doug I just wanted to let you know that I think that this blog is a great idea, and I think that you are really brave, thoughtful, and generous for doing it. Fortunately, unlike some people who learn of such sad and shocking news as you have, you have not turned to solitude. I also want you to know that as much as you may sometimes feel like doing that you should not because it is times like these that you need the people who care about you in your life the most. You also need hope, I'm sure that there will be many times during your illness where hope will seem fleeting but you must never lose it for no one knows what may lie ahead of us and hope will be your eternal savior. But if you ever do happen to lose it I'm sure that one of us people who care about you will be able to help you somehow find it again. Lately I find myself feeling very helpless and sad when it comes to you and what you are now going through, but I suppose that knowing that I am there for you with some kind words might be enough. I was reading your original blog earlier today and I noticed that you mentioned that you are going to celebrate your life and start living for you. This is also a great idea, as I just said, no one knows what may lie ahead us, and sometimes life can end so fast and unexpected that we must try to enjoy each minute of it. So just remember that you are a wonderful person and that you have lots of people who care about you and want you to get better real soon, myself included. :)
- Michelle Tatlock


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