What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks itself, specifically the myelin, which is located in our central nervous system as a layer of substance protecting the nerve fibers.
Lesions or scars will appear in different areas of the brain when the myelin is damaged. This is how the name "multiple sclerosis" is derived.
Multiple means "more than one," and sclerosis is defined as "scars," so "multiple sclerosis" means that there are several scars on the brain.
An MRI is used to detect these scars.
The Stages of Multiple Sclerosis
There are four stages of multiple sclerosis, and an individual can be diagnosed during any one of these four stages or "courses" of the disease. Multiple sclerosis treatment differs depending on what stage the disease is in for the patient.
MS is a progressive illness that can be described in four stages: Relapsing remitting MS, Primary-progressive MS, Secondary-progressive MS, and Progressive-relapsing MS.
Two "sub-stages" within the four stages exist, where one of them is called the Benign MS and the other is Malignant MS, which is a very rare stage.
To better understand how MS affects those diagnosed, it's essential to realize each of the four stages of multiple sclerosis.
Keep in mind that although there are different stages, the symptoms can vary and even overlap from one stage compared to another stage.
Relapsing remitting MS is the most common stage that is diagnosed.
It is the first stage of MS and approximately 85 percent of cases will be diagnosed during this early stage of the disease.
Common symptoms include bladder problems, fatigue, muscle stiffness, and blurred vision.In this stage, patient tends to suffer from flare ups that are followed by periods of remission.
These flare ups may last one to three months and then cease. It's also common that during the relapsing-remitting MS stage, an individual may not feel another flare up for a year or more.
A patient may have no symptoms or may feel very mild symptoms during the remission period. But even without symptoms, the central nervous system will still have continuing damages.
One type of MS that is closely related to RRMS of which could be considered a "sub-stage" is the benign multiple sclerosis.
This stage signals that there may be a flare up of some kind that happens several times and will either not return or will return after several years.
Those with the benign type of MS often live the rest of their lives never feeling another neurological event.
Physicians still do not know why some patients do not experience the symptoms again and why others have the symptoms for the rest of their lives.
The next of the four stages of multiple sclerosis is called primary-progressive MS.
During PPMS, patients typically have a progressing re-occurrence of neurological problems.
The common symptom during this stage is the patient will slowly lose his or her sense of balance, creating difficulty for the patient to walk.
They may also experience more relapses.
The third stage is known as the secondary-progressive MS.
The symptoms continue to progress slowly over time. However, the symptoms at this time are more crippling with fewer recoveries.
Essentially, the attacks happens more frequently and less recoveries or remission periods between attacks. Also, during this stage, the ability to function becomes more difficult.
Furthermore, a patient will have fewer and fewer attacks or will have no signs of any, but the disability continues.
The final stage is named the progressive-relapsing MS, which is a rare condition.
The flare ups or attacks are usually very acute. A sub-stage of PRMS is known as the Malignant Multiple Sclerosis, which is also known as Marburg's variant (very aggressive form of MS where the disease advances very quickly and relentlessly). It is very, very rare.
However, those diagnosed at this stage will experience the worst of MS, where the patient will be severely disabled for as long as he or she lives.
There are several symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. However, each person varies on their multiple sclerosis symptoms while others may have several symptoms, if not, all of them.
Multiple sclerosis treatment does not currently exist. Regrettably, the medical diagnosis is as difficult as finding a cure because the MS symptoms are similar to many other kinds of neurological disorders.
Currently, no "multiple sclerosis test" is accessible to specifically diagnose MS. Most patients will wait months before they are finally diagnosed.
Until the medical community can accurately diagnose MS, they will need to place their faith in the current tools for treating patients accordingly, which means utilizing the four stages of multiple sclerosis.