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What is Multiple Sclerosis? Signs, Symptoms & Diagnosis

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  • Medically Reviewed By: Dr Farzad Entikabi MB BS MSc MRCS(Eng) MRCGP DFSRH
Multiple sclerosis MS

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system (CNS) that disrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body.

It is characterized by damage to the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells. This damage leads to reduced functioning of the nerves and a variety of symptoms.

It can be mild, with occasional relapses, or it can be progressive and worsen over time.

There is currently no cure, but treatments are available to manage symptoms and slow disease progression.

Signs & Symptoms

Signs & symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. They may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Vision problems
  • Balance difficulties
  • Stiffness or spasticity.
  • Bladder problems

These symptoms can make it difficult for people with MS to carry out their daily activities. The good news is that treatments are available to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms regularly or seem to be developing them over time, it is important that you see your GP as soon as possible.

Causes

The exact cause is unknown, but it is thought to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Researchers have identified several genes that may play a role in the development of the disease, but it is not yet clear how they interact with each other and with environmental factors to cause the disease.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis usually involves a combination of medical history, physical exam, neurological exam, MRI scan, and blood tests to test for autoantibodies or other indicators of MS.

Your GP will refer you to a neurologist in order to further investigate the cause of your symptoms.

If you are diagnosed with MS, you will be closely monitored by your doctor to track your disease course and response to treatment.

It is important to receive treatment as soon as possible in order to help manage any existing symptoms and reduce the risk of further progression of the disease.

Treatment options typically vary depending on individual cases, but can include medication such as beta interferons, glatiramer acetate injections, or oral medications.

Other therapies such as physical therapy and occupational therapy can also be beneficial in helping improve mobility and quality of life.

Early Detection

It’s important not to ignore any symptoms of MS and to contact your GP as soon as possible to get a proper diagnosis. With early diagnosis, treatment, and lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, diet modifications, stress reduction techniques, and symptom management strategies, it is possible to manage MS symptoms and lead an active life.

If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact your GP for further advice. It’s important that you get the support and care you need.

With the right treatment, Multiple Sclerosis doesn’t have to be a debilitating condition. With early action and proper management, it is possible to live an active and fulfilling life with Multiple Sclerosis.

If you’d like to talk to someone about how you’re feeling after being diagnosed or if you would like support with your condition from the MS Society, their MS Helpline team are here for you. Call 0800 800 800 to speak to someone who knows MS.

This resource has been created for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your GP or other healthcare professional. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above (or if you think you might have Multiple Sclerosis) contact your GP as soon as possible to get assessed and receive appropriate treatment.

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