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World MS Day: Raising Awareness and Understanding Multiple Sclerosis

World MS Day: Raising Awareness and Understanding Multiple Sclerosis

New Age Care News

World MS Day, celebrated on 30th May each year, serves as a crucial reminder of the impact of multiple sclerosis (MS). In the UK there are over 150,000 people with MS and this number is growing.

World MS Day unites the MS community to share stories, raise awareness, and campaign for better services and treatment for those living with this challenging condition. Understanding MS, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment is essential in fostering empathy and supporting ongoing research efforts.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic condition that affects the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. It is characterised by the immune system mistakenly attacking the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibres. This can lead to permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves themselves. The term "sclerosis" refers to the scar tissue that forms on the damaged myelin, which disrupts the communication between the brain and the rest of the body.


The Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

The symptoms of MS vary widely among individuals and depend on the location and severity of the lesions in the central nervous system. Common symptoms include:

Fatigue: A prevalent and often debilitating symptom, fatigue can interfere with daily activities and overall quality of life.

Mobility Issues: Difficulty walking, balance problems, and muscle weakness or spasms are common. Some individuals may eventually require walking aids.

Visual Disturbances: Optic neuritis, which is inflammation of the optic nerve, can cause blurred vision, double vision, or even loss of vision in severe cases.

Sensory Symptoms: Tingling, numbness, and a "pins and needles" sensation can occur in various parts of the body.

Cognitive Changes: Problems with memory, attention, and executive function can arise, impacting work and personal life.

Pain: Neuropathic pain, including sharp, stabbing pain or chronic aching
Bladder and Bowel Dysfunction: Issues such as urinary urgency, frequency, or incontinence can significantly affect daily life.

Emotional Changes: Depression, anxiety, and mood swings are common and can be both a direct symptom of MS and a response to the challenges it presents.

The Causes of Multiple Sclerosis

The exact cause of MS remains unknown, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some potential contributors include:

Genetics: While MS is not directly inherited, having a close relative with MS slightly increases a person’s risk.

Gender: Women are 2-3 more times more likely to develop MS than men.

Infections: Some viral infections have been linked to an increased risk of developing MS.

Vitamin D: Low levels of vitamin D, potentially due to lack of sunlight exposure, have been associated with a higher risk of MS.

Smoking: Smoking has been shown to increase the risk of developing MS and can exacerbate the disease's progression.

Geographical Factors: MS is more prevalent in regions further from the equator, suggesting that environmental factors may play a role.

Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis

Diagnosing MS can be complex due to its varied symptoms and the absence of a single definitive test. Neurologists typically rely on a combination of methods:

Medical History and Physical Examination: A thorough assessment of the patient's symptoms and medical history is the first step.

MRI Scans: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect lesions in the brain and spinal cord, which are indicative of MS.

Lumbar Puncture: Also known as a spinal tap, this procedure collects cerebrospinal fluid to check for abnormalities related to MS.

Evoked Potentials Tests: These measure electrical activity in the brain in response to stimuli, helping to identify nerve damage.


The Treatment and Management of MS

While there is currently no cure for MS, various treatments can help manage symptoms, modify the course of the disease, and improve quality of life. These include:

Disease-Modifying Therapies (DMTs): These medications aim to reduce the frequency and severity of relapses and slow disease progression. Examples include interferons, glatiramer acetate, and more recently developed oral and infusion therapies.

Symptomatic Treatments: Medications and therapies targeting specific symptoms, such as muscle relaxants for spasticity, antidepressants for mood disorders, and pain management strategies.

Rehabilitation: Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy can help maintain mobility, function, and independence.

Lifestyle Changes: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, stress management, and adequate sleep are crucial for overall well-being.

Support Networks: Psychological support, counselling, and MS support groups can provide emotional assistance and practical advice.

World MS Day is more than just a date on the calendar; it is an important initiative to bring together the global MS community, advocate for change and increase public awareness. By raising awareness, we can reduce stigma, improve access to care, and support ongoing research efforts to find better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for MS.


Helpful Links for Multiple Sclerosis

In the UK there are 2 main MS charities that can offer information, advice, and support. They are:

MS Society
Here for everyone with MS | MS Society

MS Trust
A UK charity that helps make sense of MS | MS Trust

They can be especially useful if you, or someone you know, has just been diagnosed with MS.

If you need help with day to day tasks as a result of MS, then New Age Care can help. We currently have a couple of clients with MS that we support, so have good understanding of the condition.

Chat to us on 0808 808 5000 or via our contact us page to find out more.


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