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Multiple Sclerosis

By Annabella Rinaldi


Multiple sclerosis, commonly known as MS, is a rare neurological disease with only 200,000 cases every year in the United States [5]. Although it is considered a rare disease, it is well known because of the severity of its symptoms as well as the relatively early onset, where they start to appear at around 20-40 years old on average [5]. This disease is neurologically devastating, affecting the nervous system, comprising the brain, nerves, and spinal cord.


The main effect of MS on the nervous system is on the neurons. MS is considered an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s immune system is attacking itself, and in this case, it is attacking the neurons. It attacks a part of the neuron called the myelin sheath, which is the fatty cover that protects the axon [6]. The axon is the area of the neuron that transports the signal through the neuron and allows it to trigger a function. The myelin acts as insulation, keeping the whole signal in the axon and allowing it to concentrate and move quickly and efficiently [2].


In some MS cases where the myelin is damaged, it causes the signal to not only move much slower, but when it reaches its destination, it is also much less clear [6]. This is the reason behind one of the main symptoms of MS being the lack of coordination because the signals the brain are not able to accurately reach their destination due to this disrupted signal.


When any tissue in the body is damaged, it is called a lesion, or a sclerae. That is how MS got its name, due to the multiple sclerae, or better translated to multiple sclerosis [1]. As explained how neurologically devastating this disease is, especially given its early onset it could result in a drastic change in the lives of many people whose adult lives are just beginning [3].


However, what makes this disease unique is that its symptoms come and go, as well as vary in severity from person to person. A person with MS could have a day where they experience almost no symptoms and simply live their lives, and then another day where they have difficulty controlling their motions in general. The prognosis of a person with MS generally varies, however on average their lifespan is not drastically shortened, being seven years less than the average lifespan [4].


Although the lifespan of a patient with MS is normally shortened, the prognosis is not that bad, considering as people can still live full, healthy lives with possibly the help of physical therapy, or even medications such as certain types of steroids that could slow down the autoimmune attack on the body. This disease is devastating and difficult for everyone affected, whether it is one's own self or a loved family member. It's also difficult to understand why the body would attack itself, considering its autoimmune nature. However, there is hope that, with time and research, facilities such as the Mayo Clinic, will be able to develop a cure.


References:

  1. History of multiple sclerosis. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2021, from https://mymsaa.org/ms-information/overview/history/

  2. Immune response: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000821.htm

  3. The immune system and multiple sclerosis. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2021, from https://mymsaa.org/ms-information/overview/immune-system/

  4. Multiple sclerosis treatment: Types of treatment and benefits. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/ms-treatment

  5. Multiple sclerosis. (2020, June 12). Retrieved March 29, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350269

  6. Nerve cells (neurons). (2018, March 01). Retrieved March 29, 2021, from https://mstrust.org.uk/a-z/nerve-cells-neurons

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