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What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
07/31/13  6:03 PM PST

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating, inflammatory disease that affects the insulating and protective coating on nerve fibers, known as the myelin sheath.  With MS, the body’s own immune system attacks its nervous system, damaging the myelin sheaths that cover nerve cells.  This can occur along any area of the brain, optic nerve, and spinal cord.

MS Nerve

Diagnosis of the condition can be difficult in its early stages because its symptoms are not consistent and may even vanish for months at a time. Even during the dormant stages of MS, permanent neurological deficits occur and become even more noticeable as the disease progresses.

The severity of symptoms depends upon the nerves that are affected and the amount of damage suffered.  Almost any neurological symptom can appear with the disease, which often progresses to physical and cognitive disability. In many cases, the condition may affect vision, sensation, coordination, movement and bladder and bowel control.

There is no pinpointed cause for the irreversible disease, though genetics, severe infections and different environmental risk factors have been attributed with certain individuals diagnosed with MS.  No two people have exactly the same experience with MS, and the course and severity of the disease varies greatly from one person to another.

Unfortunately, there is not yet a known cure for MS.  However, treatment is available to help treat MS attacks, manage its symptoms and reduce the progress of the disease.  Several FDA-approved medicines are available which work to reduce disease activity and progression for many individuals.  Others may turn to natural forms of remedy, along with exercise, physical and occupational therapies.  Most people with MS learn to cope with the disease and continue to lead productive and satisfying lives.

Diet plays a particularly important role for anyone suffering from this chronic condition. Some of the suggested dietary guidelines include:

  • Eating a variety of foods from each food group.
  • Maintaining weight through a proper balance of exercise and food.
  • Choosing foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Limiting sugar intake.
  • Moderate use of salt.
  • Limiting alcoholic beverages to no more than one or two beverages per day.
  • Drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
  • Limiting caffeine consumption.

For more information on ways to recognize symptoms and find help for the condition, visit any of the following sources used for this article:

MayoClinic.com, National Library of Medicine, WebMD, National MS Society, kp.org

This article was written by a contributing author at Shield HealthCare.

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