January 10, 2004
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. People with MS have damaged myelin, a fatty tissue that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers of the central nervous system and helps those nerve fibers send electrical impulses to muscles and organs.
The precise cause of MS is unknown, but it's believed that damage to myelin in people with MS is caused by abnormal activity of the body's immune system, says the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand.
MS symptoms depend on the area of the central nervous system where the myelin is damaged.
Symptoms may include one or more, but not all of the following: numbness, pain, paralysis, loss of vision, muscle stiffness, problems with bladder and bowel function, loss of balance, fatigue and sexual dysfunction.
About half of all people with MS suffer cognitive impairments, including poor judgment and difficulties with concentration, memory and attention.
There are various treatments for MS symptoms. Different kinds of drugs and physical therapies can help reduce specific MS symptoms. For example, a combination of drugs and physiotherapy may help relieve muscle stiffness, says the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.
Bowel problems can often be reduced by changing eating habits. If fatigue is a symptom of MS, a person may have to adjust their lifestyle.
Regular physical exercise can help people with MS maintain good physical
condition. While strenuous exercise may not be possible, many people with
MS find that a regular swimming, tai chi or yoga program helps them maintain
muscle tone without becoming overtired.
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