November 15, 2007
Multiple Sclerosis Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system that affects the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves. In MS, the myelin sheath, a fatty tissue that surrounds and protects nerve fibers, is damaged. Inflammation also occurs which further destroys the sheath and eventually the nerves that it encompasses. This leads to areas of multiple scarring or sclerosis which can slow down or even block nerve signaling that is responsible for muscle coordination, strength, sensory information, and visual responses. Multiple sclerosis is chronic, however not contagious, and depending upon the severity of damage which occurs, can be debilitating. Most researchers of MS believe that it is an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly identifies its own tissues as foreign. This results in a response by the immune system to send antibodies and white blood cells to target the myelin sheath. It is still unclear as to why this action takes place, but it may be caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and exposure to a virus or bacterium. The virus entering the body may carry with it a protein that mimics the
proteins of myelin, therefore causing an inappropriate reaction. This may be triggered by such situations as a viral infection of a cold ,flu, or even changes within the body following pregnancy.
More than 300,000 people in the United States and over 1 million people worldwide are diagnosed with MS. The disease generally strikes women twice as often as men, between the ages of 20 to 40. The signs and symptoms of MS can vary widely depending on the individual and the specific nerves that may be affected. Some symptoms include abnormal sensations such as tingling, weakness or numbness in the arms or legs and possibly...