Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system. It occurs when there is damage to the protective layer around nerve fibres found in the brain and spinal cord, casing random patches known as plaques or lesions, which interrupt messages sent along these nerves. MS is one of the most common diseases in young adults with approximately two and a half million people affected across the globe.
MS is not a contagious disease; however, it is chronic and its effects are unpredictable. Early symptoms are typically mild, however as MS is a progressive disease, symptoms may become more severe with time. Some individuals may become severely disabled while others only suffer one or two attacks then never experience any further symptoms. The cause of MS is unknown and there is currently no cure for the disease.
Treatment, however, has two different objectives; the first aim of treatment is focused on modifying the immune system and suppressing the disease through pharmacological intervention, and the second treatment is focused on improving the symptoms though a combination of medical and allied health treatment such as speech pathology and physiotherapy to assist with mobility and communication difficulties.
The symptoms of MS vary from person to person due to the various locations of disruptions throughout the nervous system. Common symptoms include: loss of coordination, difficulties with speech, tremor, severe fatigue, incontinence, sight or sensation impairment, memory difficulties, vertigo, and general weakness.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis
There are a number of different types of Multiple Sclerosis, which have differing symptoms and disease progression. These include:
This type affects 85% of individuals with MS from the onset of the disease. Sufferers experience acute episodes of neurological symptoms occur lasting from days to months, before resolving entirely or partially. The intervals between attacks vary from individual to individual, however on average they are roughly 1-2 years apart.
Primary progressive MS
This type affects roughly 10% of individuals with MS from the onset of disease. These individuals do not experience episodes of relapse but instead have a gradual onset of disability and do not recover from the disease.
Secondary relapsing-remitting MS
This type of MS occurs in people who start with the relapsing-remitting MS diagnosis, however the relapses become less regular or stops altogether. However, disability continues to increase. About 60% of people who start with relapsing-remitting MS develop secondary progressive MS after 15 years.
Relapsing progressive MS
This type of MS occurs from onset in roughly 5% of sufferers, with disability becoming increasingly worse between continuing episodes of relapse.
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This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have speech pathology related questions, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.