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Brain & Spine Health 01 Jun 2021

Focus on: Multiple Sclerosis. Learn about the symptoms and 4 most common types of MS

We take a closer look at this complex condition

image of woman searching online for multiple sclerosis support groups

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex, autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. It develops when the protective covering surrounding nerve cells (called myelin) begins to deteriorate. This disrupts signals that travel within the brain, and from the brain to other parts of the body. These interruptions are the source of MS symptoms, which can include:

  • Visual disturbances or eye pain
  • Muscle weakness or tremors
  • Trouble with coordination and balance
  • Dizziness or fatigue
  • Thinking and memory problems
  • Sensations such as numbness, prickling, “electric shock” or "pins and needles"

Researchers are not sure what causes this deterioration of cells, although they have learned that it is not genetically passed on, or something that can be transmitted from person to person.

Recognizing MS

MS can start suddenly, typically in people 20-40 years old and more often in women. There is no single test to diagnose MS. Doctors must look for clues in a person’s medical history and physical exams, and may order blood tests, a lumbar puncture and an MRI to rule out other possible conditions. Nerve function tests could also provide important information. The patient will likely be referred to a neurology specialist to confirm the diagnosis.

MS is unpredictable and can affect people in different ways. For some people, the effects are mild. For others, it can have a significant impact on their functional abilities. Depending on the type of MS, and its severity, symptoms may fade into remission and then flare up again.

The four most common types of MS are:

  • Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS) – characterized by short periods of new or worsening symptoms, followed by long symptom-free periods.
  • Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS) – a slow and steady progression of symptoms, with or without relapses.
  • Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS) – symptoms worsen from the beginning, with periodic relapses and remissions.
  • Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS) – symptoms worsen from the beginning, without periodic relapses and remissions.

Living with MS

MS can be effectively treated by medication. In many cases, lost function can be regained by treatments and therapy. Residual symptoms can also be improved with medication.

Understandably, living with MS can be challenging emotionally and difficult to cope with at times. Looking after the mental health of MS patients, as well as their physical health, is very important. The Multiple Sclerosis Program at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, one of the largest and most comprehensive for MS in the region, focuses on a supportive, team-based approach to care. The multidisciplinary team not only address physical wellness, but also the emotional, cognitive, and rehabilitation needs of each patient.

Visit ourMS website herefor more information.

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