Multiple sclerosis – Causes, symptoms, and how it can be managed

Multiple sclerosis – Causes, symptoms, and how it can be managed

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune condition that affects the central nervous system. It damages the myelin sheath (a covering around the nerves), disrupting brain-body coordination and leading to several other symptoms like blindness, pain, memory loss, and even paralysis. The condition has no cure, and treatment only slows down the progression and controls the symptoms. Read on to learn about the causes of multiple sclerosis, its symptoms, and ways to manage it.

Causes of multiple sclerosis
Like most other autoimmune conditions, the exact cause of MS remains unknown. But, doctors and researchers have identified several risk factors that increase one’s chances of developing the disease. For instance, it is more common in women, individuals between 20 and 40 years, and those whose family members have or have had the condition. Further, vitamin B12 and D deficiencies and infections like Epstein-Barr virus and mononucleosis are also known to increase the risk.

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis
Since MS affects the central nervous system, the symptoms are varied and can impact any organ. Individuals should not ignore the following signs:

  • Muscle weakness, numbness, or tingling in the arms, legs, and face
  • Bowel and bladder problems
  • Pain, fatigue, and dizziness accompanied by Lhermitte’s sign (a shock-like feeling)
  • Muscles spasms and tremors across the body
  • Sexual dysfunction (both men and women)
  • Emotional and memory problems

Note that the signs can differ from person to person and vary in intensity depending on how severe the problem is.

Treatment options for multiple sclerosis
As mentioned, MS has no cure. Doctors prescribe lifestyle changes and other treatments to manage the symptoms so that they do not interfere with the patient’s everyday activities. Here are the standard options:

Corticosteroids
Corticosteroids are a special class of treatments that can be administered orally (prednisone) or intravenously (methylprednisolone injections). They help relieve inflammation in the nerves and control MS attacks but with side effects like high blood pressure and mood swings.

Disease-modifying therapies
Doctors recommend disease-modifying therapies, such as the FDA-approved ocrelizumab, if MS is in the early stages. These therapies help slow down the disease’s progression by increasing the time for new lesions to form in the brain and spinal cord. The therapies could be administered orally or via injections.

Treatment for relapsing-remitting MS
In some cases, multiple sclerosis is characterized by periods of manifestation and remission known as relapsing-remitting MS. So the goal is usually to lower the relapse rate. Effective oral treatments for relapsing-remitting MS include fingolimod, dimethyl fumarate, and teriflunomide. Glatiramer acetate and interferon beta are injectables for the same.

MS patients may need comprehensive care to manage the disease more efficiently. As a part of this method, different healthcare professionals who specialize in particular aspects of MS come together to provide holistic treatment. For instance, they help manage the symptoms, treat exacerbations, and even offer emotional support.

Nutrition for multiple sclerosis
While there is no particular MS nutrition plan, several studies have shown that eating mindfully can reduce the symptoms’ severity, help control the progression, and reduce flare-ups. Here are some foods to eat and avoid:

Eat: Foods high in fiber
Fiber can aid proper bowel movement, a common concern for people with MS. One can have lentils and beans and veggies like spinach and broccoli to increase fiber intake. Berries, avocados, and apples are good snacks to increase fiber, and interestingly, so is popcorn!

Eat: Vitamin D and calcium
Vitamin D is essential for osteoporosis, and calcium helps improve its absorption. Apart from dairy, leafy vegetables, and soy, patients can have fortified grains to increase their calcium intake. Fatigue can be fended off with vitamin and mineral-rich foods and complex carbs.

Avoid: Processed meat
It is best to abstain from processed meats like sausages, bacon, and canned meats. Besides worsening the MS symptoms, processed meat can increase the risk of other health conditions.

Avoid: Refined carbs
Patients must cut down on refined carbohydrates. It would mean scrapping white bread, pasta, biscuits, French fries, fried chicken, and doughnuts.

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