Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis generally appear between the ages of 20 and 40. Typically a person is seen after developing two or more distinct episodes of symptoms that resolve yet are consistent with MS. While there is a wide variation in the symptoms of multiple sclerosis some of the more common symptoms include:
- Loss of balance
- Weakness in one or more limbs
- Blurred or double vision
- Slurred speech
- Sudden onset of paralysis
- Lack of coordination
- Cognitive difficulties
As the disease progresses, other symptoms may include muscle spasms, sensitivity to heat, fatigue, changes in thinking or perception, and sexual disturbances. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another. Today, new treatments and advances in research are giving new hope to people affected by the disease.
Multiple sclerosis is thought to be an autoimmune disease. The body’s own defense system attacks the myelin sheath, a fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system. The nerve fibers themselves can also be damaged. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing the variety of symptoms that can occur.
The research team at IND is actively investigating brain imaging techniquesto detect inflammation in the brain associated with multiple sclerosis. Inflammation may play a key role in the progression of multiple sclerosis and detecting this change through imaging offers the potential to monitor progression of disease and effect of the medications on inflammation. Click here for a brochure about an IND study of MS.