What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease,
in which a part of our own body is not recognized as such,
and is therefore damaged.
As with most autoimmune disorders, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is 3 to 2 times more prevalent in women than in men, and its onset age is between 20 and 40 years old, though it may appear earlier or later in life. In MS, myelin –a lipoprotein that protects nerve fibers (axons) in the central nervous system (CNS) and improves their capacity to transmit nerve impulses or signals— is damaged because it is not recognized by the immune system. According to how Multiple Sclerosis presents, the body may try to repair its damage, and when this happens, injury symptoms will be transient. At times, it becomes impossible to repair the damage, and when this happens, the nerve transmission is interrupted, and the patient faces a neurological deficit that will depend on the CNS area that has been affected.
In the beginning, there may be relapses and remissions, that is, alternating periods of
varied, transient symptoms with symptomatically quiet periods.
Possible symptoms may include:
What happens after this?
It is complicated to talk about the prognosis of MS since not every patient progresses in the same way, and a small percentage may even show a benign form or an isolated demyelinating syndrome.
In recent years, it is worth mentioning that scientific advances have afforded patients new medications that modify the course of the disease, slowing its evolution.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis
Benign multiple sclerosis or isolated demyelinating syndrome
It is a presentation of the disease in which there is no symptoms evolution over time. It is only diagnosed when a long time has elapsed since the initial symptoms.
Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis
It is the most common presentation. Approximately 80% of patients with multiple sclerosis have this presentation subtype. At the onset of the disease, the patient suffers symptoms that sometimes remit until normal, but later, as years go by, remission becomes only partial, or the neurological symptoms do not remit, making the patient accumulate disability. When new symptoms appear, we call this a relapse or flare-up, and when these symptoms improve partially or completely, we speak of remission.
Secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis
After several years since the onset of the disease, some patients’ symptoms start worsening without any remissions. This is the case of secondary-progressive MS.
Primary-progressive multiple sclerosis
Between 5 to 10% of MS patients show a continuous progression from the onset of the disease, which means that they never show clear remissions. This is referred to as primary-progressive MS, and it is one of the most severe forms of the disease.
Why is treatment important?
Multiple Sclerosis treatments have evolved over the years, benefitting patients by contributing to an ever-decreasing rate of relapses and a better and improved quality of life. At this time, 12 medications have been approved –almost all of them available in our country— for the immunomodulation treatment of relapse-remitting MS. A promising future lies ahead. At least 250 research protocols are underway, looking for new pharmacologic alternatives to treat this condition. Do not hesitate to speak about your symptoms with your doctor, who will suggest the most appropriate treatment for your disease.
Frequently asked questions
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