Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease affecting the Central Nervous System, which completes the brain and spinal cord.
The immune system normally protects the body, but in MS, it attacks the myelin in nerve cells (neurons) by mistake. Nerves run throughout the body, so Multiple Sclerosis can manifest itself in many body parts and very different ways.
Not all symptoms appear in all people, nor do they do so with the same intensity. It presents itself differently in each person (heterogeneous ) and is often called “the disease with a thousand faces”.
Most cases diagnose people between 20 and 40 years of age (precisely when designing their life plans), but it can also appear in children, adolescents and the elderly.
Table of Contents
Causes of Multiple Sclerosis
The cause of Multiple Sclerosis is unidentified, but it accepts that it develops in people with a particular genetic predisposition and exposed to various environmental risk factors.
There is nothing a person can do to cause MS or its symptoms and nothing they can do to prevent it, but there are some “modifiable” things to consider in self-managing your health to achieve the best quality of life.
To understand what happens in Multiple Sclerosis, it is helpful to know how the central nervous system works:
- A substance called myelin protects nerve fibres in the central nervous system and helps messages travel quickly between the brain and the rest of the body (it works like an insulator, like the plastic coating on an electrical wire).
- The immune system usually helps fight infections, but in the case of Multiple Sclerosis, it mistakes the myelin for a foreign body and attacks it. This damages the myelin and removes it from nerve fibres, either wholly or partially, leaving scars (Sclerosis) known as lesions or plaques. This process is called demyelination. This way, the messages traveling along the nerve fibre interrupted: they can be slowed down, distorted, or even not transmitted.
- In addition to damaging myelin, it can sometimes damage the nerve fibre fibres). This nerve damage produces an increased disability that can occur over time.
It has not yet been identified what causes Multiple Sclerosis or its cure. It has a genetic component, although it is not considered a hereditary disease that interacts with environmental factors.
What are the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
The disease can debut and present different symptoms, depending on the location of the plaques. The course may be in outbreaks, with partial or complete remission (relapsing-remitting form) or progressive (primarily progressive condition). Some people remain practically asymptomatic after long years of evolution, and others with frequent outbreaks marked progressive deterioration or even a fulminant course.
Neurological manifestations such as fatigue, intellectual impairment (even in early stages or benign forms), alterations in motor control, and brief transient episodes of repeated symptoms occur. Detailed studies have found visual field abnormalities in more than half of patients without a history of optic neuritis.
Among the abnormal movements described are all the variants: rest tremor, hemifacial spasm, and movement tremor. Multiple Sclerosis’s most common transient disorders are dystonia, epileptic seizures, and difficulty speaking and walking. Other less frequent disorders are vasomotor alterations, neuralgia, and sleep disorders.
The most common symptoms are:
- Intellectual decline.
- Hemifacial spasm.
What factors can influence Multiple Sclerosis?
Nobody knows the cause of Multiple Sclerosis, but everything seems to indicate that its appearance is due to a combination of genes and environmental and lifestyle factors.
The person with MS should be aware of the ‘modifiable’ aspects that may influence their MS to manage MS appropriately, prevent worsening, and achieve the best possible quality of life.
Different investigations indicate the following factors that can influence Multiple Sclerosis:
1. Genetic factors
Multiple Sclerosis is not inherited directly from parents to children, as there are more than 100 genes that can affect the possibility of having MS.
The probability of having MS increases slightly when one of the parents (2%) or a sibling has the disease (3-4%). This probability is greater in twin brothers (30-40%). Although there may be more than one case in the family, it is much more likely that this will not happen.
There may be a genetic predisposition for Multiple Sclerosis to manifest. But it must coexist with other factors for it: for this reason, it not considers a hereditary disease.
2. Environmental factors
According to recent epidemiological studies, in addition to genetic susceptibility, some environmental factors may significantly influence the appearance of MS and its evolution/prognosis. Infectious factors (certain viruses), vitamin D, intestinal microbiota, and lifestyle (physical activity, diet, etc.).
- Vitamin D
Currently, there is no known definitive cure for Multiple Sclerosis. However, various treatments can delay the disease. The goal of treatment is to prevent the progression of symptoms and maintain the patient’s quality of life.