often become “A disease with 1,000 faces” It is mentioned because its course and symptoms, as well as the success of treatment, differ from one patient to another. Multiple sclerosis – MS for short – is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks the insulating outer layer of nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Inflammatory foci form in a wide variety of places (hence “multiple sclerosis” from the Greek skleros for “solid”, i.e. hardening of organs and tissues). Nerve fibers become damaged as a result and can no longer transmit messages properly. Somatic disorders and neurological deficits occur.
Women are particularly affected by multiple sclerosis
About 280,000 people in Germany live with MS, 1.2 million in Europe and 2.8 million worldwide, according to the latest figures from the German Federal Multiple Sclerosis Society (DMSG). It affects women three times more often than men, and four times as often in young people up to the age of 20. What exactly is the reason for this is still not clear. According to the DMSG, obesity in girls increases the risk of developing MS later, as do the generally listed risk factors for developing MS: smoking and alcohol, lack of time outdoors, lack of sun exposure and lack of physical activity. .
Multiple sclerosis is not a wasted muscle
Multiple sclerosis is not considered a wasting of muscles, as the acronym “MS” is often misinterpreted. Nor is it necessarily fatal. Multiple sclerosis is neither contagious nor a purely genetic or mental illness. Also, people with MS don’t always end up in a wheelchair.
Causes: What causes multiple sclerosis?
The cause of multiple sclerosis remains unclear. Genes may play a role. However, the disease appears only when other factors such as environmental influences or viral infection are present.
Smoking, Low Vitamin D Levels, The Relationship Between Individual Intestinal Microbiota and Central Nervous System Inflammation, The so-called gut axis In addition to obesity or a disturbed day-night rhythm are possible causative factors for MS, as is infection with the Epstein-Barr virus.
Early signs and symptoms of MS
The first symptoms of multiple sclerosis usually appear in early adulthood, between the ages of 20 and 40, but sometimes earlier. Visual disturbances and sensory disturbances on the skin are typical of the onset of multiple sclerosis. But other MS symptoms can also occur early in the disease, such as:
- Motor deficits (eg, insecurity when walking and in fine motor skills, slurred speech or bladder dysfunction)
- balance disorders
- Attention disorders
- Exhaustion (the so-called fatigue)
- sexual dysfunctions
- depressive mood
forms of multiple sclerosis
Depending on how advanced MS is, symptoms appear differently in sufferers. Multiple sclerosis can occur in the following forms:
Relapsing multiple sclerosis: at the onset of the disease, this type of course predominates with more or less regular relapses. About 90 percent of all MS patients live with this form of MS in the first 10 to 15 years. A flare in which symptoms appear can last for a few days or even weeks. At first, the restrictions usually disappear completely, after which the symptoms remain in whole or in part.
In the so-called primary chronic or primary progressive course, the disease progresses continuously from the onset without any obvious flare-ups. About ten percent of people with MS suffer from this form.
40 to 50 percent of all MS patients who initially have relapsing-remitting MS have what is called a secondary progressive or chronic secondary course after 10 to 15 years of disease. After 20 years, their share is 90 percent. Even with this form, the condition worsened continuously, without obvious flare-ups.
Diagnosis of multiple sclerosis
Because the initial symptoms of MS cannot always be clearly labeled, a detailed examination is necessary to obtain a reliable diagnosis. These include, in particular:
- A comprehensive history, i.e. a detailed recording of the previous medical history
- Neurological and physical examination – here various body functions are examined and inquired about
- Test of “evoked potentials” – here the conductivity and velocity of the nerves are measured
- Lumbar puncture (collection of cerebrospinal fluid) – provides evidence of inflammatory changes
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging, magnetic resonance imaging of the brain and spinal cord)
Treating MS: Preventing or delaying progression
Multiple sclerosis is not yet cured. In acute attacks, patients with multiple sclerosis receive high doses of corticosteroids, which have an anti-inflammatory effect. The goal of MS treatment in general is to stop or delay the progression of the disease.
Because MS is an autoimmune disease, people with MS need to have a strong immune system. Medications can help, as can a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition. We recommend, for example: lots of vegetables and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. You should avoid: Too many carbohydrates and sugary foods.
Chemotherapy for severe MS courses
In severe cases, where the MS progresses rapidly, people with MS may also be treated with chemotherapy. In this treatment, chemotherapy is used first to stop your immune system, which is directed against your own body. Patients then receive an injection of bone marrow cells from which they have previously been removed. They must grow in the bone marrow and form a new immune system, so to speak, that will no longer attack the sheaths of nerves.
Thanks to ever-improving treatments, the life expectancy of people with MS is hardly shorter than that of healthy people.
Another goal in treating people with MS is to relieve symptoms in order to maintain the highest possible quality of life — despite multiple sclerosis. In addition to medication, the following treatments can help:
- physical therapy
- Practice therapy
- Speech therapy
- Neuropsychological treatment
Helping MS patients
In search of new treatments, rehabilitation facilities, and research findings, the Federal Association of German MS SocietyAnd National Societies and the MS Proficiency Network Information for MS sufferers and interested parties.
World MS Day on May 30th
On World Multiple Sclerosis Day, celebrated since 2009 and always taking place on May 30 since 2019, MS associations and self-help groups all over the world – in Germany and above all the German MS Society (DMSG) – start Business events on the topic of MS. The aim is to raise public awareness of the chronic disease and to educate people about multiple sclerosis and its impact on daily life.