What is MS?
May 28 is World MS Day. MS stands for multiple sclerosis. The term ‘Sclerosis’ is a Greek word that translates to ‘hard tissue or scar’. Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease. The nerves of the brain and the spinal cord are damaged by a person’s own immune system. This is why MS is known as an autoimmune disease. The body’s immune system usually serves to destroy foreign substances in the body. In MS, the system mistakenly attacks normal tissue. MS affects the central nervous system (CNS) of the body, the brain and the spinal cord. The CNS is made up of nerves that are the bodies messaging system. Each nerve has an outer sheath called myelin. This myelin insulates the nerves and promotes the transmission of nerve impulses. These impulses control muscular movements such as walking, standing up, swallowing and talking. As the myelin covering of the nerves is destroyed, scar tissue or plaque is formed. This process is termed, ‘demyelination’. Damaged myelin means the electrical signals/transmissions are disrupted or stopped completely. The messages to and from the brain to the rest of the body are subsequently affected. This can lead to motor, sensory and cognitive symptoms.
Here are some key points about Multiple Sclerosis:
- MS is two to three times as common in females as in males.
- The occurrence of MS is unusual before adolescence.
- A person has an increased risk of developing the disease from the teen years to age 50, with the risk of onset gradually reducing after this time.
- An estimated 23,000 Australians have MS
What causes MS?
No one knows the exact cause of MS, but a mixture of genetic and environmental factors are likely to play a role in the development of the disease.
Key things to remember are:
- No single test can establish the presence of MS
- MS is an unpredictable disease. Episodes of symptoms can occur at varying times that affect different areas of the CNS.
- A person may experience one or two episodes and then have no symptoms for some time. Others may experience a steady progression of symptoms that leads to a significant change in abilities over time.
To find out more about how Multiple Sclerosis can affect speech and swallowing click here.