Sunday, November 17, 2002
6:19 a.m. CT
By Joe Chapman
Some things about Multiple Sclerosis remain unknown, but a leading authority on the illness shared some of his knowledge Saturday at a symposium in Amarillo.
Dr. Daniel Mikol gave the lead presentation at Multiple Sclerosis 2002: New Directions in MS Treatment & Therapies. The National MS Society Panhandle Division sponsored the symposium Saturday at the Amarillo College Business and Industry Center.
Mikol, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and director of its Multiple Sclerosis Clinic, spoke to an audience of about 40. He told them about the natural history of the disease and described the effectiveness of treatment options, citing data from studies as he spoke.
MS is a non-fatal disease in which the body's own immune system attacks its central nervous system. Scientists don't know what causes MS, but genetics and environment seem to be contributing factors, Mikol said. It also has no cure.
The disease may hinder speech, vision, balance, coordination, strength, muscle control, bodily functions and concentration, depending on the individual case. Treatment involves suppressing the attack on the nervous system and treating the symptoms, Mikol said.
About 700 people are registered with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Panhandle Division, which covers the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and the four easternmost counties of New Mexico, said Gail Lindsey, program specialist. The area experiences almost twice the number of MS incidences than statistics would predict, she said.
Deanah Alexander, 50, attended the symposium so she could increase her knowledge about the disease for professional and personal reasons.
An instructor of nursing at West Texas A&M University, her increased education about the disease can help her students and benefit their future patients, she said.
Alexander recently was diagnosed with MS. Only six months past her diagnosis, she listened carefully to the evidence Mikol provided about how to treat the disease in its early stages.
"It'll help me with looking to the future and the decisions I might have to make," she said.
Treatment should start as early as possible and be maintained regardless of presence of symptoms, because damage can occur even when the disease seems to be in remission, said Mikol, who sees 1,000 patients at his clinic.
Researchers are exploring potential treatments of MS that may include
using antibodies, estrogens, cholesterol-lowering drugs, vaccination with
T-cells, and stem cells, Mikol said.
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