Tuesday, 10 February 2015

What is MS

My oldest boy Joel asked me today "what is MS Mum"?  He has heard of MS as he has done the MS read-a-thon a couple of times (and I'm talking about it quite a bit at the moment)  but he wanted to know "what is it".  So, in simple terms I told him "its when your brain has trouble sending messages to your body and that everyone who has MS has different symptoms and there is no cure".  I don't know if he was happy with that answer or not as he had a kind of blank look on his face.  Now that might have come from concern or it may well have been just him blanking out in his sometimes typical 11 year old fashion.

I thought I would do some research on MS and in lay mans terms lay it out here for anyone that would like to know and also for myself so that I can give my kids a better answer next time they ask.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?
 Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a long-lasting disease that can affect your brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves in your eyes. It can cause problems with vision, balance, muscle control, and other basic body functions.   The effects are often different for everyone who has the disease. Some people have mild symptoms and don’t need treatment. Others will have trouble getting around and doing daily tasks.

MS happens when your immune system attacks a fatty material called myelin, which wraps around your nerve fibers to protect them. Without this outer shell, your nerves become damaged and scar tissue may form.  The damage means your brain can’t send signals through your body correctly. Your nerves also don’t work as well as they should to help you move and feel.  As a result, you may have symptoms like:
  • Trouble walking
  • Feeling tired
  • Muscle weakness or spasms
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Sexual problems
  • Poor bladder or bowel control
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Problems focusing or remembering

Some QF's (quick facts)

  • MS is a progressive disease of the nervous system, for which there is no cure.
  • An estimated 2.5 million people in the world have MS.
  • More women than men have MS, with a ratio of 1 man to 3 women affected.
  • MS is the one of the most common diseases of the central nervous system in young adults.
  • There are four types of MS: relapsing remitting, secondary progressive, primary progressive and progressive relapsing.
  • Sclerosis means scars; these are the plaques or lesions in the brain and spinal cord.
  • In MS, the protective myelin covering of the nerve fibres in the central nervous system is damaged.
  • Inflammation and ultimate loss of myelin causes disruption to nerve transmission and affects many functions of the body.
  • While the exact cause of MS is not known, much is known about its effect on immune system function which may be the ultimate cause of the disease.
  • MS is not directly hereditary, although genetic susceptibility plays a part in its development.
  • MS is not contagious.
  • Diagnosis of MS is generally between 20 and 40 years of age, although onset may be earlier.
  • MS is rarely diagnosed under 12 and over 55 years of age.
  • Life span is not significantly affected by MS.
  • There are a wide range of symptoms. Fatigue is one of the most common.
  • The incidence of MS increases in countries further from the equator.
  • There is no drug that can cure MS, but treatments are now available which can modify the course of the disease.
  • Many of the symptoms of MS can be successfully managed and treated.

I sure hope "they" find a cure out there very soon but in the meantime Australians (unless you are a trials patient) can only travel overseas to have HSCT treatment (and they need to mortgage their house to do it).  I hope in the not too distant future that our Australian Hospitals and MS Experts can offer this treatment to the estimated  23,700 Australians who have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

Cheers xx