MS is an autoimmune disease, whereby the body's immune system, which normally targets and destroys foreign substances such as bacteria, mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. MS gets its name from the buildup of scar tissue (sclerosis) in the brain and/or spinal cord. MS is a disease of temperate climates. In both hemispheres, its prevalence increases with distance from the equator. Data suggest that exposure to some environmental agent encountered before puberty may predispose a person to MS. Researchers believe that MS may be inherited. MS may develop because a person is born with a genetic predisposition to react to some environmental agent, which, upon exposure, triggers an autoimmune response. Some studies have suggested that many viruses such as measles, herpes, and the flu viruses may be associated with MS. Women with MS outnumber men with MS by 2-3 to 1.
There is no single test that is proof-positive for diagnosing multiple sclerosis. However, there are accepted criteria for making the diagnosis, but even this system is not fully reliable. As many as 10% of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis actually have some other condition that mimics MS. Examples of other conditions that may be misdiagnosed as MS include inflammation in the blood vessels, multiple strokes, vitamin deficiency, lupus, or brain infection. Sometimes stress-related disorders can lead to a misdiagnosis of MS.
Onset between 15 and 60 years of age. Symptoms and signs suggestive of a disease of the brain or spinal cord. Presence of two or more lesions by MRI scan. Objective evidence of disease of the brain or spinal cord on neurological examination. Two or more episodes lasting a minimum of 24 hours and occurring at least one month apart, or a progressive course of signs and symptoms over at least six months absence of explanation of the patient’s symptoms However, a normal MRI does not absolutely exclude the diagnosis of MS. Also about 5% of patients with the confirmed diagnosis of MS on the basis of other criteria, do not have lesions in the brain on MRI. These people may have lesions in the spinal cord or may have lesions that cannot be detected by MRI. Electrical tests of the nerve pathways, known as evoked potentials, are very helpful in confirming whether MS has affected the visual, auditory, or sensory pathways. Blood tests help rule out conditions that may mimic multiple sclerosis, but the presence of MS cannot be detected in the blood.
Traditional Medical Treatment
A number of new drugs have been shown to benefit people with relapsing-remitting MS. These drugs work by decreasing the number of MS attacks as well as the severity of those attacks, they also may reduce the number of the existing brain lesions. These drugs include; Avonex (interferon beta-1a) Betaseron (interferon beta-1b) Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) Novantrone (mitoxantrone) Rebif (interferon beta-1a). In addition, Betaseron and Novantrone are approved for use in people with secondary progressive MS. All of these drugs work by suppressing or altering the activity of the body's immune system. These medications do not cure MS, but they do reduce the frequency and severity of attacks and the development of new brain lesions. In addition, they slow down the progression of MS, thus reducing future disability.
Multiple Sclerosis & Complementary Medicine
The addition of complementary medicine to the traditional medical therapy could be very helpful in patients with MS. While traditional medical therapy is essentially controlling the symptoms, many complementary medicine approaches aim at stabilizing the body’s defenses thus giving the body a real chance of controlling the disease itself rather than just the symptoms. Acupuncture is known to balance the body’s energetic status thus normalizing organs with either excess or deficient energy. This will help stabilize the overall energetic activity of the individual and help in minimizing many symptoms. Homeopathy is another complementary approach that uses remedies manufactured according the specifications of the US homeopathic pharmacopoeia. These remedies are safe, mostly free of any side effects and like acupuncture do not interact, counteract or interfere with traditional medical drugs. These remedies could provide invaluable help to stabilize the disease process. These remedies are also frequently used to help the body get rid of possible accumulated toxins that are believed to be responsible for some MS symptoms. Auricular Medicine (a highly complex form of ear acupuncture) is another complementary approach that could provide the practitioner with invaluable information about the status of the different body organs thus guiding the practitioner to use whatever means available to support the integrity of these organs. Other complementary approaches may include nutrition, massage therapy among others all of which are aiming at stabilizing and re-enforcing the body’s defenses and supporting the traditional medical therapy.