What is a MS?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the nerve fibres of the Central Nervous System (including the brain and the spinal cord), which are responsible for transmitting communication signals both within the central nervous system itself, and between it and the nerves supplying the rest of the body.
In people affected by MS, patches of damage called lesions appear in the white matter in the central nervous system, in apparently random areas. These lesions are essentially caused by a loss of myelin (a protective sheath) over the nerves. One analogy for myelin sheath is a string of sausages. The nerve impulse 'action potential' leaps from one link to the next. If the myelin is destroyed then the nerve impulse cannot leap the gap and although the intention to move is generated - it does not result in the action being initiated.
Because of the apparent randomness of the areas affected, MS is very hard to characterise since the unpredictable symptoms can vary greatly both in type and in severity depending on which areas are affected and how badly they are damaged - areas very close together can give rise to very different symptoms. Many problems can appear, including all of the following, either fully or partially: tingling, pins and needles, numbness, muscle weakness or spasms, cramps, pain, blurred or double vision or even blindness, urinary urgency or hesitancy, incontinence or constipation, slurred speech, loss of sexual function, loss of balance, nausea, fatigue, depression, short term memory problems, inability to swallow, or inability to control breathing.
Multiple sclerosis generally appears in the young and middle aged (it does not usually occur after age 40), and affects women more than men. An initial attack is usually followed by a period of remission, often of about 2 years. This can be permanent, but if a relapse occurs it tends to return with more symptoms.
Reference: Clinically Oriented Anatomy, Moore
Free Anatomy Quiz © 2011-