By Mary Ann Holley
Sheboygan Press staff
Multiple sclerosis affects the brain and spinal cord - that cable that leads from the brain to the arms and legs - but it doesn't affect thinking, said Dr. Tom Zweifel, the Sheboygan neurologist treating Sheriff Loni Koenig.
"It primarily affects movement, coordination, sometimes sensation or occasionally vision," Zweifel said. "It is quite variable. I have patients that work in factories, a patient who is 74 years old and the last had a flare up of MS in the 1960s.
"In that way, it is unpredictable, and in that way, somewhat difficult to forecast the future. But most people do reasonably well."
Zweifel said there are treatments for MS, medicines that were developed in the early 1990s. There are three treatments for the relapsing remitting variety of MS, which Koenig has.
"It really is a much different story than when I was a resident in the 1970s," Zweifel said. "It used to be, we would tell someone they had MS and there's not much we can do."
Modern medicines reduce the number of flare-ups that an individual might have, they reduce the length of time of the flare-ups and the recovery is quicker.
"If you're reducing flare-ups, you're reducing the burden of MS over years, and, as a result, disability will be prevented or reduced," Zweifel said.
Many of the people Zweifel diagnoses have had the disease for years.
"It's not going to change its personality," he said. "It is not a devastating problem by any stretch of the imagination. There is a lot of hope that has to be included in discussing the condition, because it's treatable and most people do well."
Zweifel said there are people with MS at Bemis, Kohler and all over who work day by day in factories side by side with other people.
"Medically, I don't think Loni Koenig's job is more
or less stressful than anyone's job, and I don't see why
she can't function as well as she always did," Zweifel said.
"She is a pretty unique individual, and I think an asset to the community."
Copyright ©2001 The Sheboygan Press