What is MS?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition which affects approximately 150 people in the Bailiwick of Guernsey and about 100,000 people in the UK. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40 but it can affect older and younger people too. MS is a chronic, sometimes disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms may be mild such as numbness in the limbs or severe -- paralysis or loss of vision. 

The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are giving hope to those affected by the disease. Multiple Sclerosis , sometimes known as disseminated sclerosis, is the most common organic disease of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). It's also one of the most baffling. It affects more women than men, although it's not known why this is.

What causes it?

NeuronThe precise cause of MS is not yet known but scientists believe it is likely to be caused by a combination of  genetics and environmental factors such as diet, climate and perhaps a virus. There is a growing amount of research that suggests that a lack of vitamin D could be a factor in causing MS. We get most of our vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to higher numbers of people developing many different conditions, including MS.

Each nerve in your system is protected by a fatty substance called the myelin sheath which acts as an insulation within the central nervous system. In MS sufferers the myelin sheath can become inflamed. In most cases the tissue is destroyed, leaving fibrous scar tissue. This scarring prevents nerve impulses from traveling from the central nervous system to different parts of the body and, as a result, millions of nerve fibres which run through the spinal cord fail to carry their information properly. This results in varying degrees of disability from impairment of speech, vision or movement, to incontinence or complete paralysis. However, although a great deal of research is under way, it is still not known what actually causes the inflammation.

Types of MS

Relapsing remitting MS is the most common type of MS, affecting around 85 per cent of everyone diagnosed. It means that symptoms appear (a relapse), and then fade away, either partially or completely.

Secondary progressive MS is a stage of MS which can come after relapsing remitting MS.It means there is a sustained build up of disability, completely independent of any relapses.

Primary progressive MS affects about 10 to 15 per cent of people diagnosed with MS. Symptoms gradually get worse over time, rather than appearing as sudden attacks (relapses).

If you have a small number of relapses followed by a complete recovery, you may be described as having benign MS.Benign MS can only be diagnosed retrospectively

What treats it?

Medicine Graphic
Although there is not yet a cure for MS, various drugs are available to treat certain symptoms and there are drugs which help can help to increase the time between episodes. Steroids are a common treatment in the early stages and physiotherapy can help to regain the use of muscles, maintain strength and aid co-ordination. It is important to keep a good general level of health, and diet can help with this. Some sufferers find that switching to a low fat diet, and eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables can help.