Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the nervous system. In MS, there are defects in the communication between the brain and other parts of the body. MS effects can range from relatively mild in most cases to somewhat disabling to devastating. The symptoms may occur randomly (in flares) and then disappear. In the worst cases, a person with MS may be unable to walk, speak, or write.
During an MS flare, inflammation occurs in patches (called plaques) in any area of the nervous system. This inflammation causes damage to the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is a fatty covering that protects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin allows for the smooth, high-speed transmission of nerve signals between the brain, the spinal cord, and the rest of the body. When myelin is damaged, it may block or slow nerve signals, resulting in reduced or lost function.
Symptoms of MS include:
The exact cause of MS is unknown. Scientists think the disease is an autoimmune condition influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Other theories involve bacterial or viral factors.
People with the following conditions or characteristics are at higher risk for developing MS:
If you have symptoms associated with MS, you should see your health care provider. Your provider will:
The provider may order the following tests:
There is no known cure for MS at this time. The primary goal of treatment is to reduce control symptoms and improve the quality of life.
Your health care provider may prescribe the following medications or a combination of the them:
Although no complementary or alternative therapy can cure, treat, or prevent MS, some strategies may improve symptoms of MS. However, some CAM therapies may interfere with conventional treatments. Inform all of your providers about any CAM therapies you are considering.
These nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following:
Herbs cannot cure multiple sclerosis or its complications. However, some herbs may help with certain symptoms, and can be used in addition to conventional therapy. Herbs can have side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider. Although with the exception of cannabis, clinical studies do not support herb use for MS treatment, some herbs used by people with MS include:
No clinical studies found homeopathic remedies to be effective in MS therapy. However, some people with MS use a homeopathy approach together with conventional therapy for some of their symptoms. Remedies include:
At the beginning of MS, about 85% of people experience attacks separated by periods of remission, during which symptoms subside. About half of these people have a chronic, progressive worsening after 10 to 15 years. About 15% of people experience a chronic progressive worsening from the initial onset.
Most people with MS live for 30 years or more with the disease. Most people with MS are active and function at work with little disability. The amount of disability and discomfort depends on:
Most people return to normal or near-normal function between attacks. Over time, there is greater loss of function with less improvement between attacks.
Bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction are common among this population. Other complications may include:
People with MS will need lifelong monitoring, especially during flare-ups.
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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. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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