What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple Sclerosis is a degenerative disorder of the nervous system which occurs due to inflammation damaging the insulating covers of the nerve cells of the brain or the spinal cord. Within the central nervous system, the immune system attacks — the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers — as well as the nerve fibers themselves. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms.
While anyone may develop MS, there are some patterns. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although individuals as young as 2 and as old as 75 have developed it. More than two to three times as many women as men develop MS and this gender difference has been increasing over the past 50 years. Studies suggest that genetic risk factors increase the risk of developing MS, but there is no evidence that MS is directly inherited. Environmental factors, such as low Vitamin D and cigarette smoking have also been shown to increase the risk of MS. MS occurs in most ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics/Latinos, but is most common in Caucasians of northern European ancestry.
Symptoms of MS
Symptoms may come and go or persist and worsen over time. Among the most common symptoms of MS are:
• Visual loss
• Double vision
• Trigeminal neuralgia (facial pain)
• Facial weakness
• Numbness and tingling
• Weakness of one or more extremities
• Gait abnormalities and imbalance
• Cognitive difficulties
• Bowel and bladder problems
• Sexual dysfunction
People with MS typically experience one of four disease types, which can be mild, moderate or severe. The four types of MS are:
- Relapsing- Remitting -RRMS: Affecting 85 % of sufferers, this is the most common disease course and is characterized by clearly defined attacks of worsening neurologic function. These attacks, also called relapses, flare-ups or exacerbations, are followed by partial or complete recovery periods (remissions), during which symptoms improve partially or disappear completely, and there is no apparent progression of disease.
- Secondary Progressive-SPMS: Follows after the relapsing-remitting course for about 65% of those with RRMS which means that the disease will begin to progress more steadily (although not necessarily more quickly), with or without relapses. Time to conversion averages 19 years but 50% will convert in a 10 year time period.
- Primary-Progressive – PPMS: Characterized by steadily worsening neurologic function from the beginning, the rate of progression may vary over time with occasional plateaus and temporary minor improvements, however, there are no distinct relapses or remissions. About 10 percent of people with MS are diagnosed with PPMS.
- Progressive Relapsing –PRMS: The least common of the four disease courses (5%) is characterized by steadily progressing disease from the beginning and occasional exacerbations along the way. People with this form of MS may or may not experience some recovery following these attacks; the disease continues to progress without remissions.
In collaboration with local and national Multiple Sclerosis organizations, NVC will develop and offer exercise programs and reinforce routine health practices that will better enable those with MS to maintain optimal quality of life. Following a comprehensive general evaluation, specific appointments will be set up for fitness training and a monthly schedule of classes and groups will be shared. A complete custom program may include:
- Personal fitness plan to follow at our onsite exercise facility.
- Tools to better manage and understand the unpredictability of MS.
- Forums to share the knowledge and resources for better management of symptoms.
- Specific programs for mobility, cognition, memory and coping skills.
Regarding educational programs, patients may wish to invite family members and loved ones seeking a better understanding of the challenges faced by those with MS, given the patterns of the disease. A schedule of caregiver groups will also be available to family members who may seek some guidance.