What is MS?

Since any website that is trying to increase awareness of multiple sclerosis must attempt to at least give some information about this disease, I will try. I will not get into a great deal of details and will also use wording that I have found to be understandable by those of us without medical degrees. If you want to know the medical terminology and details, please go to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website or to a medical site with definitions (in Friends & Resources above).

You can not catch multiple sclerosis from someone who has it. However, you could have it for many years before it is diagnosed. It is a chronic, often disabling disease that randomly attacks the central nervous system. You may have many attacks, and recover from them with no physical changes. Many of the changes are invisible simply because the nerves control the muscles. If the nerve becomes damaged, the muscle quits. If it is a leg or arm muscle, you lose the use of it. If it is not an often used and seen muscle, no one except you knows it.

A friend calls multiple sclerosis his designer disease, because the symptoms are many and varied. Seldom will two people with ms have the same symptoms. They range from severe fatigue, blurred vision, numbness in the arms and legs, muscle weakness. These symptoms may come and go, or they could become permanent anytime. There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, but there are medications that can slow the devastating symptoms, thanks to the many dollars given to research by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and others.

Many people seem to confuse this disease with muscular dystrophy. That is the disease that the Jerry Lewis telethon raises funds for. I support that effort as much as I can, but you are born with muscular dystrophy. At this time, multiple sclerosis seems to be different. Any person can get it, at any time in their lives. It has been diagnosed in children as young as 10 and in adults older than 50. The cause of multiple sclerosis has not been determined yet. Each year, the cause and cure get a little closer, thanks to the research funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and others.

As a victim of this disease, I have found that finding current information about ms can be difficult at times. In July of 2000 when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, there were less that 350,000 ms patients in the United States. Since there is a relatively small number of people diagnosed with ms, there is not a great deal of exposure for the need for research into the cause and cure. As someone told me, the more widespread the cause becomes, the easier it will become to get donations. Most people will tell you they know of someone with multiple sclerosis, and it either disabled them completely, or they have no visible symptoms. Of course, sometimes they simply tell you that the person seems to fake problems often. They act like they have problems at different times of the day, but since they don’t have them all day, there probably is nothing wrong with the person. This very issue is what makes multiple sclerosis so difficult to diagnose and deal with. Perhaps an individual needs a wheelchair in the mornings, but can carry the wheelchair home within an hour or two! These symptoms are very difficult for both the multiple sclerosis victim and all the individuals around them.

For more information about multiple sclerosis, please contact the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. You may also want to check out one of the websites in the Friends & Resources above. Please insure the information has been reviewed or updated recently. Information about this disease changes rapidly, sometimes monthly.

Here are a few books that are excellent at explaining symptoms and issues involved for the multiple sclerosis patient:

Climbing Higher by Montel Williams; published by New American Library, January 2005

Curing MS; How Science Is Solving the Mysteries of Multiple Sclerosis by Howard L. Weiner, MD; published by Crown Publishers, 2004

Managing the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, Fourth Edition by Randall T. Schapiro, MD; published by Demos Medical Publishing, Inc, 2003