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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease of the nervous system that disrupts communication between the brain and other parts of the body. Its effects can range from relatively mild in most cases to somewhat disabling to devastating. The symptoms may mysteriously occur and then disappear. In the worst cases, a person with MS may be unable to write, speak, or walk. About 350,000 Americans have MS, with most cases occurring between 18 - 45 years of age.
During an MS attack, inflammation occurs in areas of the white matter (pale colored nerve tissue) of the central nervous system in random patches called plaques. This is followed by destruction of myelin, the fatty covering that protects nerve cell fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin allows for the smooth, high speed transmission of electrochemical messages between the brain, the spinal cord, and the rest of the body. When myelin is damaged, neurological transmission of messages may be slowed or blocked completely, resulting in diminished or lost function.
Signs and Symptoms
What Causes It?
The cause of MS is unknown. The disease is thought to be a T-cell autoimmune disease influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Other theories include a childhood virus that primes the immune system for an attack against myelin in early adulthood.
Who's Most At Risk?
People with the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for developing MS:
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
If you are having symptoms associated with MS, you should see your health care provider. Your health care provider will take a history of clinical symptoms, check for neurological problems, and refer you for lab tests, such as a cerebrospinal fluid exam and agar gel electrophoresis, and imaging procedures, such as a computed tomography scan (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The primary goal of a treatment plan is to reduce the severity of attacks using certain medications and to extend the individual's physical functioning for as long as possible.
Your health care provider may prescribe the following medications -- or a combination of the following medications:
Surgical and Other Procedures
Surgery may be used to treat severe and disabling tremors or to reduce severe spasms.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
A comprehensive treatment plan for MS may include a range of complementary and alternative therapies (CAM). Always work with a knowledgeable provider when seeking CAM therapies for the treatment of MS. Some CAM therapies may interfere with conventional treatments. Inform all of your health care providers about any CAM therapies you are considering.
Nutrition and Supplements
These nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should speak with your health care provider before starting treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, and teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 - 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 - 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of gastritis symptoms (such as nausea and vomiting) based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account your constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for you individually. Combination remedies may be used for fatigue, spasm, and to help rid the body of impurities.
About 70% of patients experience attacks and remissions, and about half of these undergo a chronic, progressive worsening after about 10 years. Between 10 - 15% of patients experience a chronic, progressive worsening of the disease from the initial onset, and 15 - 20% of patients have a relatively mild course of disease. Most MS patients live for 30 years or more with the disease, many still working and mobile, though bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction are common among this population. Patients who have MS are at higher risk than the general population of developing bone loss from inactivity, steroid use, and vitamin D deficiency. MS is also associated with increased risk of some cancers, including urinary organs and brain tumors.
Patients need lifelong monitoring, especially during flare-ups.
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Review Date: 7/3/2012
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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