Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects the Brain and Spinal Cord. MS can result in a variety of disabling effects including loss of balance, muscle control, vision and sensation. With MS, the nerves of the brain and spinal cord are damaged by one’s own immune system. Therefore, MS is considered an autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune diseases are those in which the body’s own immune system, which normally targets and destroys foreign substances such as bacteria, mistakenly attacks normal tissue. In MS victims, the infection fighting white blood cells enter the nervous system and cause injury to the two components of the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord.
MS affects the ability of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with each other. All nerves in the body are protected by a fatty substance called Myelin, which aids in the transmission of nerve impulses between the brain and other parts of the body. MS causes damage to this protective covering, causing the brain to become less able to send and receive messages. This results in the wide range of debilitating symptoms MS victims suffer.
The name “Multiple Sclerosis” refers to the build up of scar tissue (sclerosis) caused by the damage to the protective myelin sheath. This process is call demyelination and can be progressive over time. Although nerves can heal and regain myelin, the process of regeneration is not fast enough to outpace the deterioration that occurs in MS.
The severity of symptoms and the course of MS varies in every individual, depending upon the location and extent of demyelination. MS can eventually cause a progressive decline, ranging from numbness and trouble walking to complete debilitation and dependence upon a wheelchair and others for every day care.