What Is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a medical condition that primarily affects adults. Within the United States, there are over 200,000 new cases of multiple sclerosis each year. This health condition affects the nerves in the body, creating poor communication between the nerve cells. Scientists have determined that this medical condition damages the myelin-producing cells in the body, or it destroys the body’s immune system.

What Are the Common Symptoms Associated With Multiple Sclerosis?

Researchers have identified several multiple sclerosis symptoms, including:

• Impaired coordination
• Chronic fatigue
• Pain in the tendons and muscles
• Vision loss or color blindness
• Muscle numbness or spasms
• Mood changes such as anxiety or depression
• Difficulty talking
• Incontinence
• Problems swallowing
• Inability to cope with temperature changes

The signs of having multiple sclerosis vary from individual to individual, and the symptoms can change on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons that multiple sclerosis is difficult to diagnose. In addition, the signs of multiple sclerosis mimic other medical conditions.

What Causes This Medical Problem?

Scientists believe that multiple sclerosis is caused by a combination of infectious diseases and genetics. With studies of the chromosomes of patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, scientists have identified abnormalities that are associated with autoimmune diseases. Statistics reveal that this medical problem is more common in certain populations in Europe, but today, many of the individuals who are predisposed to having multiple sclerosis have migrated to new locations. It is possible that a lack of vitamin D before birth and during childhood can lead to having multiple sclerosis.

Infections or Toxins

Many of the individuals who have multiple sclerosis have had infections from rare viruses such as Epstein-Barr, but scientists are trying to determine if common conditions such as mumps or measles can cause this medical problem. It is also possible that environmental pollutants such as the toxins in tobacco smoke are responsible for damaging the body’s nerve cells, leading to multiple sclerosis.

How Is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed?

To determine if an individual has multiple sclerosis, a physician will request an MRI to look for lesions on the spinal cord, basal ganglia, brain stem or optic nerve. In addition, a patient’s immune system may try to fight the condition, creating a response in the blood. A physician can collect spinal fluid to test it for certain types of inflammation markers, leading to a positive diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.