A good friend of mine was diagnosed with this disease
a few years back. She did as much research as she could on it, and was a quite upset to discover there is so little information on it. Here is what she has told me about the disease:
- Canadians have one of the highest rates of MS in the world.
- MS is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada.
- It was first identified in 1868 by some French neurologist, but his name escapes me at present. Not much information has been found since then.
- No one knows what causes this disease.
- The severity, progression, and specific symptoms of MS varies from patient to patient, and cannot be predicted at the time of diagnosis.
- Say goodbye to the protective layer of myelin covering your central nervous system.
- It is not contagious, nor directly inherited. They are looking into perhaps genetic coding making certain people more susceptable to this disease.
- It affects more women than men.
- The average age range of diagnosis is between your 20's and 40's. 30 is the most common age.
Some common symptoms of MS are listed below. Not everyone feels everything on the list. Some feel all of it. Others, only one or two. MS is a completely unpredictable disease, which could be why finding a cause and cure is such a long struggle.
- Vision disturbances - can include anything from blurring of vision, seeing double, involuntary rapid eye movement, in some rare cases even total loss of sight.
- Extreme fatigue - As in getting up out of bed can suddenly knock the wind out of you. The activity often doesn't match up with the amount of fatigue you feel.
- Stiffness of Muscles (spacticity) - This can affect your mobility. It can also go into spasms which can be quite painful.
- Balance and Coordination problems - dizziness, vertigo, clumsiness, loss of balance, poor coordination, ataxia. Sounds fun, doesn't it? But wait! There's more!
- Weakness in the legs - this can effect walking. Some end up having to use a cane or a wheelchair.
- Sensitivity to heat - Many people diagnosed with MS tend to have their symptoms worsen in hotter environments.
- Altered Sensation - numbness, tingling, a burning feeling in one area or other of the body, facial pain
- Bladder and Bowel problems - frequent/urgent urination, incomplete emptying of the bladder or emptying at inappropriate times, and in some cases constipation.
- Speech and Swallowing Problems - slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, slowing of speech, changes in rythm.
- Short-term Memory or Cognitive problems - includes impairment with memory, concentration, reasoning, and judgement.
- Sexuality - Impotence, diminished arousal, loss of sensation.
Diagnosing MS is a difficult task. Doctors will usually put you through a battery of tests before proclaiming "I believe you have Multiple Sclerosis." At first, my friend was misdiagnosed with a viral infection in the spine, or somesuch rot. It wasn't until she repeatedly kept going back with the same issues that the doctors realized there was something bigger going on. She had to go through numerous blood tests, CT scans, MRI's, the works, until they were able to put a finger on her problem.
Drugs and other attempts at battling MS are STILL in experimental stages. They are quite costly. Most workplaces shy from this disease because of its inherant costs. You can sign up for experimental programs. Currently my friend is on one in which they supply her with the medication, she takes it weekly, then reports once a month for testing and lets them know of any difference/changes. She pities the people that get the placebo, but at the same time envies them. The medicine she takes is injected and pretty much knocks her off her feet for a day. Update as of March 2002: Her program ran out this month. She is now going to have to pay for her meds. Hopefully the company she works for is sympathetic and has a good package.
One day they may find a cure, or at least a cause. In the meantime, the disease is rarely fatal; she can live a long life if she is careful and takes care of herself.