Definition of multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease of the central nervous system including the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. The central nervous system is made up of nerve cells that send signals to each other. Each nerve cell is covered with a protective lining called myelin which acts like insulation on an electrical wire. It allows signals to pass between nerve cells at high speed. In multiple sclerosis, disease activity damages the myelin in a process called "demyelination" (What is multiple, n.d.). This leads to an eventual breakdown in the signal leading to symptoms of the disease. The demyelination process interferes with nerve impulse transmission, affects muscular control, and causes of variety of sensory, motor, and psychological symptoms. Because multiple sclerosis can attack any area of the central nervous system, the signs and symptoms are many and varied. Not all people with MS have the same symptoms. They vary from person to person, and the symptoms a person experience depends on where the disease activity is focused. They are associated with what the nerves in the affected area are responsible for controlling. Sensory symptoms may include numbness, tingling, pain, burning, itching, facial pain, and visual disturbances. Motor symptoms may include speech impediments, weakness, tremor, difficulty walking, lack of coordination, and bowel or bladder problems. Problems with memory, attention, and problem solving are common symptoms of MS. Multiple sclerosis symptoms generally appear between the ages of twenty and forty. While the etiology of MS is not understood, researchers are studying the immunologic and genetic factors in trying to understand what causes MS. (About MS, n.d.). This is an important step toward finding effective ways to treat it and ultimately cure or prevent the disease all together. The impact of a person being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis can be overwhelming and devastating with the person facing the likelihood of reduced physical function and of disability with consequent disruptions in education, employment, sexual and family functioning, friendships, and activities of daily living. While the physical effects of MS are often apparent, it is important to exam the considerable impact on the individual's sense of self. A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can have substantial psychological consequences, and therefore it is critical to understand these symptoms. Psychological symptoms are often the most destructive and may include mood swings, anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment. Psychological interventions are important in the treatment of MS in many ways. Proper treatment indicates that this chronic disease is managed through both cognitive behavioral approaches as well as appropriate medications to decrease symptoms. Multiple sclerosis is a physical as well as emotional disease and it is important to examine common emotional responses to MS and understand effective methods of dealing with those symptoms. Working Through the Process of Loss
MS is an unexpected challenge that arrives in peoples' lives and can bring a series of losses for both the patient and their families. Previous ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving must be replaced by new ones. Diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is often difficult, and many people with MS are distressed before receiving their diagnosis. Once the diagnosis of MS is made, working through the process of loss and adjustment can begin. The normal reaction to any loss requires a grieving process which involves a range of emotions and the need to work through the feelings and consequences. On receiving a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, many people are left in a state of shock and wonder if it is true or a terrible mistake. Very often they question, "Why me?". Shock is often followed by denial and people need the security of denial until they are able to replace a set of old...
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