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Living with Multiple Sclerosis

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/25/2007 | Health

You may have felt numbness in a leg, blurred vision, or loss of balance. A visit to the doctor, another to a neurologist and various tests confirm a diagnosis of MS. Every week in the US, 200 more people are diagnosed with MS. It is scary to find out that you have a disease that you barely know anything about. The good news is you can live with MS; it is not a fatal disease. With all the research that has gone on over the years, there are many treatments available to lessen damage from relapses.

MS is a disease that affects the central nervous system. The immune system perceives that there is an injury where there is none and blood is rushed to that area causing inflammation. Inflammation around nerve cells cause damage to the myelin. Myelin is a special coating that protects nerves, and when the myelin is damaged, lesions form around this area in the brain. The body replaces the damaged myelin with scar tissue (sclerosis). Myelin protects the nerves and also helps nerves send signals, so when the nerve signals are interrupted; MS symptoms appear such as balance problems, dizziness, blurred vision and cognitive difficulties.

There are four categories or types of MS. Each category is based on the patterns and frequency of symptoms. 85% of people that are diagnosed with MS are categorized as having Relapse-remitting MS. This means that the symptoms of MS may be inactive for months or years, but when they are experienced, the patient partially or completely recovers.

The next common type of MS, experienced by 10% of sufferers is Primary-progressive MS. Symptoms may occur slowly, but the condition of the patient worsens at a steady rate. At some point, the symptoms may level off, or they may continue to worsen over time.

Secondary-progressive MS occurs in patients with the first type of MS covered, Relapsing-remitting MS. The patient may have ongoing symptoms that never let up along with occasional relapses.

There is a very rare form of MS that only 5% of patients will experience, called Progressive-relapsing MS. This type of patient may have a steady worsening condition with severe relapses that they may or may not recover from.

After all the bad news, there is good news for MS sufferers! There are many new drugs available that help manage MS very well. Each case of MS is so unique that it is very important to manage your case as your doctor sees fit.

It is very important to manage MS because starting therapy as early as possible into your diagnosis will control inflammation and therefore control nerve damage. The goal in any MS treatment is to reduce the frequency of relapses to reduce new damage to your nervous system. If you have recently been diagnosed with MS, do not give up hope. There are so many treatments available to slow the disease and manage the damage already caused. You can live with MS and have a very fruitful life.