Learn about the causes of Multiple Sclerosis MS & find a practitioner in Auckland, Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin to help you overcome Multiple Sclerosis MS within New Zealand.
Multiple Sclerosis commonly known as MS was formerly known as disseminated sclerosis or encephalomyelitis disseminata. The name multiple sclerosis refers to the scars (scleroses - better known as plaques or lesions) in the white matter. It is a chronic, inflammatory, demyelinating disease that affects the central nervous system. The disease is most frequently diagnosed in young adults and is more common in women.
Multiple Sclerosis is caused by damage to nerves in the central nervous
system and healthcare professionals believe this is down to genetic and
Nerve fibres that help to send messages around the body to control movement and function (both conscious and unconscious) are covered in a substance called myelin. In MS sufferers, the immune system attacks the myelin believing it to be a foreign body – this attack is known as demyelination and when damaged, the myelin develops lesions that disrupt the messages sent along the nerve fibres.
As the messages are disrupted, slowed down and jumbled, they can be sent along the wrong fibre or stopped from transmitting at all. Why Multiple Sclerosis develops has several theories but is most likely down to inheriting genes from a parent or from outside environmental triggers.
Genetic factors passed on from parents determine our physical make-up but can also include faulty or abnormal genes. Although not defined as a genetic condition (because no single gene causes MS), the risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis by inheriting a gene isn't direct but having a parent with the condition does increase your chances of contracting it (albeit very small - 2% chance when a parent has MS).
As only a small number of people develop MS, it is suggested that the condition isn't just down to genetics with environmental factors being just as likely to be the cause.
Where you are born and live in the world may affect your chances of developing Multiple Sclerosis. MS is more common in cooler climates such as Europe, Scandinavia and North America and this may be down to certain bacteria or viruses that thrive in these conditions.
Childhood infections in cooler climates may disrupt the immune system at an early age causing an autoimmune response later in life that can develop into Multiple Sclerosis.
However, no bacteria or virus has been found to prove this theory but evidence has been found to suggest that someone over the age of 15 years-old who moves from a cooler climate to an environment closer to the equator lowers their risk of developing MS compared to someone who is born in that location.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis are wide ranging and vary depending on
the individual. Due to the nature of the condition, the central nervous
system affects all of the body's functions and so symptoms can occur
Here is a list of the common symptoms of MS although the likelihood of suffering all of these is rare:
Visual problems – A quarter of all MS cases begin with an inflamed optic nerve in one eye that results in pain behind the eyeball and a slight loss of vision. Double vision may be experienced along with colour blindness or difficulty with focus.
Muscular problems – Due to damage to nerve fibres, muscles can spasm (tight and painful contractions) or become stiff and immobile (known as spasicity).
Pain – Pain for Multiple Sclerosis takes two forms: neuropathic and musculoskeletal. Neuropathic pain is experienced as sensitive skin, burning sensations or stabbing pain. Musculoskeletal pain is experienced due to pressure on the muscles and joints from spasms or spasicity.
Loss of mobility – Balance and coordination is affected by Multiple Sclerosis resulting in problems walking or with general movement. Tremors, dizzy spells and vertigo are also common.
Mental problems – MS has a cognitive effect on the brain affecting thought processes and the ability to learn. Slurred speech, poor concentration and attention span are typical mental problems MS sufferers may develop.
Fatigue – Feeling extremely tired all the time is one of the main symptoms of MS which in turn can make other symptoms such as thought, balance and vision worse.
Emotions – Multiple Sclerosis sufferers are likely to have emotional outbursts such as laughter or crying and with no cause or reason. Depression and anxiety may also be experienced.
Bladder/Bowel problems – Multiple Sclerosis can cause the bladder to become overactive (which leads to incontinence) or underactive (whereby passing urine is interrupted and the bladder never feels like it's been emptied properly). The bowel can also be affected by MS causing incontinence or constipation.
These symptoms may come and go or worsen as the condition progresses. MS sufferers will go through periods of remission whereby the symptoms ease or disappear altogether only to suffer relapses whereby they reappear again.