What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that can range from mild to severe. In MS, the body “turns on itself” and attacks a substance called myelin that insulates the nerves. Most people experience their first MS symptoms between ages 20-40—often blurred or double vision, red-green color distortion, or even blindness in one eye.
Symptoms of MS can include:
- Muscle weakness in their extremities and difficulty with coordination and balance.
- Paresthesias, abnormal sensory feelings such as numbness, prickling, or "pins and needles" sensations
- Speech impediments, tremors, and dizziness
- Mild cognitive impairments such as difficulties with concentration, attention, memory, and poor judgment
How is MS treated?
There isn’t a cure for MS yet, and many patients do well with no therapy at all, especially since many drugs have serious side effects and some carry significant risks. However, there are a number of medications to treat the condition:
- Three forms of beta interferon (Avonex, Betaseron, and Rebif)
- A synthetic form of myelin basic protein, called copolymer I (Copaxone)Teriflunomide and dimethyl fumarate
- The immunosuppressant treatment Novantrone (mitoxantrone) to treat advanced or chronic MS
- Dalfampridine (Ampyra) to improve walking in individuals with MS
- Steroids, which don’t affect the course of MS over time, but can reduce the duration and severity of attacks in some patients
- Muscle relaxants and tranquilizers to treat spasticity, which can occur either as a sustained stiffness caused by increased muscle tone or as spasms that come and go
Physical therapy and exercise can help preserve remaining function, and patients may find that aids like foot braces, canes, and walkers can help them remain independent and mobile.