What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition that leads to a neurological disease which can affect the brain and spinal cord. With MS, the body’s immune system attacks the myelin sheath, a protective layer, and this damage causes a disruption to the messages being passed along the nerves.
The severity of the condition can vary between individuals, but Multiple Sclerosis is a lifelong condition and those people who suffer from it have a life expectancy of on average 7 years shorter.
MS is a lifelong condition, but treatments are available to help you manage the condition and it’s symptoms to minimise the impact it was on an individual’s life.
How does MS affect your life?
With a diagnosis of MS individuals are at risk of a variety of possible symptoms, the most common of which are:
- Increased fatigue
- Walking and mobility issues
- Speech problems
- Problems controlling the bladder
- Muscle issues, including stiffness, spasms and tremors
- Problems with vision and focussing
- Numbness and tingling
- Difficulty thinking, learning and planning
The symptoms an individual may experience are linked to the corresponding parts of the brain and the nervous system which is being affected. Depending on the type of MS an individual is affected by, the presence and severity of these symptoms can vary. Symptoms may come and go over time, or steadily increase in intensity.
Who does the condition affect?
Estimates say there are around 127,000 cases of multiple sclerosis diagnosed in the UK. The condition is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50, but the signals of MS often show themselves long before. Females are three times more likely to be affected by the condition than men.
The disease is more common in countries far from the equator, leading to speculation that Vitamin-D deficiencies can be a factor in developing the condition.
Types of the Condition
There are three main types of multiple sclerosis:
- Primary Progressive MS (PPMS), and
- Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS), and
- Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS).
Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
A small number of those with MS start with a gradual worsening of symptoms. Just over 1 in 10 people develop primary progressive multiple sclerosis. This type of MS is when the symptoms are continuous and progressively become worse. Over time many new symptoms may appear, on top of those already present. Though people sometimes experience periods when their symptoms seem to stabilize, these symptoms do not go away.
Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis
RRMS is the most commonly diagnosed form of MS, affecting 85% of people with MS. Although experiences differ from person to person, individuals who have RRMS may experience relapses, which are classified as “the appearance of new symptoms, or the return of old symptoms, for a period of 24 hours or more”. Relapses may also be referred to as attacks, flare-up, exacerbations.
These relapses are followed by a period of remission, where individuals will experience little or no symptoms. Remission can last for a few days, weeks, months or even longer.
Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
About half of these people who suffer from relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis go on to develop Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, usually after many years, perhaps decades. It’s most commonly developed between 15 to 20 years after the initial diagnosis, and the risk of it developing increases the longer you have relapsing remitting MS.
Individuals with SPMS are likely to experience a gradual worsening of their symptoms, with the cyclic pattern of relapses and remission coming to an end. Individuals can still experience relapses but recovery stage may not be as effective as in the RRMS form.
Due to changes happening slowly and individuals being affected in different ways, identifying SPMS from other forms can be difficult.
Managing and Living with MS
While there’s no cure for Multiple Sclerosis, with the right care many individuals can live long, active and healthy lives. The NHS website provides some helpful guidance on Living With Multiple Sclerosis, including advice on self-care, healthy living and suitable treatments.
For individuals affected by mobility issues, cleverly designed care equipment can provide independence and a higher quality of life.
Electric profiling beds are one such example, where individuals can adjust their position through a controller to make it easier to get on and off the bed.
How our Adjustable Beds can help
Our range of beds have been designed with adjustable back and leg rests, providing a host of benefits for the user including improved circulation and comfort. When an individual is ready to get up in a morning, raising the backrest to electrically sit the user up will make exiting the bed much easier helping the user to get off to the best possible start to the day ahead.
Common Questions about Multiple Sclerosis
Here you can find some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Multiple Sclerosis.
Do you die from MS?
Multiple sclerosis is not a deadly disease. It is only in the very advanced stages that symptoms can lead to death. When the immune system is extremely weakened, it is easier for other illnesses to develop, which may be deadly.
Can you live a normal life with MS?
The answer differs depending on the type of MS and the severity of symptoms. Some claim they forget they have MS sometimes, while others are constantly having to adjust their lives to deal with symptoms. Some, while in remission, claim the thought of having an episode hinders activities.
Can MS be diagnosed through a blood test?
In short, no. What blood tests can do is rule out other options that have similar symptoms.
Can MS be brought on by stress?
Research suggests that stress does not cause MS to be developed initially, but it may aggravate existing cases. Stress may bring about an episode of symptoms in those who suffer from relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.
For more information about multiple sclerosis and access to resources in the UK, please refer to these websites:
NHS is a comprehensive source of information regarding many diseases and conditions. It also offers the ability to find services near you.
MStrust is a site dedicated solely to educating people about all aspects of MS, from it’s causes to how to lead a normal life. It also provides many resources for finding treatments and services near you as well as help with decision making.
This site offers helpful advice about how to live with MS including work, daily, and sex life. It also offers resources for care and support, getting involved, and finding treatments