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Multiple Sclerosis: What is it and How to Live with It

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Multiple Sclerosis: What is it and How to Live with It

The month of March is dedicated to Multiple Sclerosis Awareness. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).


In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerve fibers.


Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely between patients and depend on the location and severity of nerve fiber damage in the central nervous system. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or ambulate at all. Other individuals may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms depending on the type of MS they have.


There's no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, there are treatments to help speed the recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease, and manage symptoms.


Common symptoms include:

  • Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs that typically occurs on one side of your body at a time

  • Tingling

  • Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward (Lhermitte sign)

  • Lack of coordination

  • Unsteady gait or inability to walk

  • Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement

  • Prolonged double vision

  • Blurry vision

  • Vertigo

  • Problems with sexual, bowel and bladder function

  • Fatigue

  • Slurred speech

  • Cognitive problems

  • Mood disturbances


Talk to your provider if you begin having symptoms linked to MS. They can refer you to our Campbell County Health neurologist, Dr. Thomas Mayer.


There are no specific tests for MS. Instead, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis often relies on ruling out other conditions that might produce similar signs and symptoms, known as a differential diagnosis. Starting with a thorough medical history and examination, Dr. Mayer will recommend a series of other tests to make a diagnosis. Some of these tests could include:

  • Blood tests

  • Spinal tap

  • MRI

  • Evoked potential tests


Diagnosing MS can be more difficult in people with unusual symptoms or progressive disease. In these cases, further testing with spinal fluid analysis, evoked potentials, and additional imaging may be needed.


For more information on when you should be referred to a neurologist, visit our website or call 307.688.3636.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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