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Multiple Sclerosis

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Multiple Sclerosis or MS is a condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of potential symptoms including problems with sensation, arm or leg movement, balance and vision.

It is a lifelong condition that can sometimes cause serious disability, although can occasionally be mild in some individuals. The average life expectancy of someone with MS can be slightly reduced and is most commonly diagnosed in people in their 20’s or 30’s, though can develop at any age.

MS is 2-3 times more common in women than men and is one of the most common causes of disability in young adults.

There must be evidence of two clear attacks before a formal diagnosis can be made and therefore it is not necessarily negligent for a GP to not diagnose the condition for several years.

Types

There are two ‘types’ of MS, relapsing remitting MS or primary progressive MS.

Relapsing remitting
More than 8 in 10 people with MS are diagnosed with this type
It involves having episodes of new or worsening symptoms that worsen over a few days which can last days, weeks or even months and then improves and can be triggered or associated with a period of illness or stress.
When the condition improves and symptoms subside, this is known as ‘remission’ which can last up to years at a time.
Individuals with this type of MS can later develop secondary progressive MS which is the other type. It is thought that half of the people with this type of MS end up going on to develop secondary progressive MS within 15-20 years.

Primary progressive
Just over 1 in 10 people are diagnosed with this type of MS
It starts with gradual worsening symptoms and there are usually no periods of remission

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of MS include;

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty controlling the bladder
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Muscle stiffness and spasms
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Difficulty thinking, learning and planning

It is important to note that everyone is affected differently by the condition and can often be unpredictable.

Causes

MS is an autoimmune condition. This is when something goes wrong with the immune system and mistakenly attacks a healthy part of the body, in this case the brain and spinal cord. The immune system attacks the layer that surrounds and protects the nerves called the myelin sheath. This ultimately damages and scars the sheath and potentially, the underlying nerves leading to the messages sent from the brain becoming slowed, disrupted or completely blocked.

It is unclear why this happens but many people think it is due to a combination of both genetic and environmental factors.

Genetics
Although not directly inherited, people related to someone with MS are more likely to get it. In fact, it is thought that 2-3% of individuals who have a sibling or parent with the condition will develop it.

Lack of sun/Vitamin D
MS is more common in countries far from the equator where people are exposed to a lesser amount of sun which is why lack of sun is thought to play a part in the development of MS. However, it is unclear whether Vitamin D supplements can prevent MS.

Smoking
Individuals who smoke are twice as likely to get MS.

Teenage obesity
Those individuals who have been very overweight in their teen years have an increased risk of developing the condition.

Viral infections
Viral infections are also thought to play a part in MS, particularly those caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (which causes Glandular Fever). This is because it may trigger the immune system to act in an unusual way and thereafter begins to attack itself.

Treatments
There is currently no cure for MS though medications and remedies can be used to help reduce or improve the symptoms. These include steroid medications and treatments to reduce frequent relapses.

MS itself is rarely fatal although the condition causes chest and bladder infections along with swallowing difficulties which can in the end be fatal. This is why there is believed to be a 5 to 10 year reduced life expectancy for those that suffer with MS.

Diagnosis: MS and medical negligence
MS is very hard to diagnose as the symptoms associated with the condition do not necessarily mean that an individual has it and no one single test can diagnose it. In the first instance, other tests should be carried out to eliminate other causes for the presenting symptoms.

If you are concerned about the treatment you or your loved one has received, give us a call. An initial discussion costs nothing and you’ll be talking to one of the most experienced, specialist teams in the region.