Multiple Sclerosis - Part 2 - Immune Essay Example

Multiple Sclerosis Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system that affects the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves - Multiple Sclerosis introduction. In MS, the myelin sheath, a fatty tissue that surrounds and protects nerve fibers, is damaged. Inflammation also occurs which further destroys the sheath and eventually the nerves that it encompasses. This leads to areas of multiple scarring or sclerosis which can slow down or even block nerve signaling that is responsible for muscle coordination, strength, sensory information, and visual responses.

Multiple sclerosis is chronic, however not contagious, and depending upon the severity of damage which occurs, can be debilitating. Most researchers of MS believe that it is an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly identifies its own tissues as foreign. This results in a response by the immune system to send antibodies and white blood cells to target the myelin sheath. It is still unclear as to why this action takes place, but it may be caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and exposure to a virus or bacterium.


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The virus entering the body may carry with it a protein that mimics the proteins of myelin, therefore causing an inappropriate reaction. This may be triggered by such situations as a viral infection of a cold ,flu, or even changes within the body following pregnancy. More than 300,000 people in the United States and over 1 million people worldwide are diagnosed with MS. The disease generally strikes women twice as often as men, between the ages of 20 to 40. The signs and symptoms of MS can vary widely depending on the individual and the specific nerves that may be affected.

Some symptoms include abnormal sensations such as tingling, weakness or numbness in the arms or legs and possibly accompanied by a lack of coordination. Vision may be affected by either a partial or complete loss of vision usually occurring in one eye at a time. There may be pain involved with eye movement, double vision or blurring. Fatigue and dizziness may also be present. Signs include changes in reflex responses and impaired coordination as determined by a physician. Some develop changes in speech patterns, altered eye movements, and mental changes regarding concentration and forgetfulness.

Indications of sensory disturbances are also possible signs of MS. Because MS is difficult to diagnose, there are many factors that are involved in making a final decision. There are no specific tests for MS, rather diagnosis relies upon a combination of test results and studies. After reviewing a patient’s medical history and related patterns of signs and symptoms, testing is prescribed. A neurological exam is performed to systematically test parts of the nervous system. This reveals information about the patient’s reflexes, muscle tone, and sensations to pain, heat, and touch.

Questions are asked to measure clarity of thought and neural functions. An MRI or magnetic resonance imaging scan is crucial in detecting any scarring or plaque on the brain. Powerful magnetic fields and radio waves create cross-sectional images which can be viewed for any abnormalities. However, a normal MRI does not necessarily rule out MS if the lesions happen to be confined to the spinal cord. Evoked potential testing or EP testing measures electrical signals sent by the brain to determine if there is evidence of scarring along neural pathways.

In addition, spinal tap testing removes cerebrospinal fluid for analysis of white blood cell and protein levels which could indicate the presence of an immune response. Once all results are compiled and all other diseases are ruled out a conclusive diagnosis can be made. In its early stages, MS occurs in attacks anywhere between months or years. It can be very unpredictable and usually treatment is not begun until exacerbations have occurred at least two times in two separate regions. Then, depending on the whether the MS is categorized as relapsing or progressing, ifferent treatments are prescribed. Medications such as corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and shorten the duration of flare-ups are helpful for Progressive MS. Muscle relaxants and drugs to combat fatigue and depression are also often prescribed. Interferon treatment with Betaseron, Avonex, or Rebif are aimed to help regulate immunity and infection for those suffering frequent attacks. Treatment with Mitoxantrone, a chemotherapy drug helps to reduce neurologic disability and frequency of relapses for severe attacks.

Physical therapy assists in strengthening and managing symptoms through a well balanced exercise program, and psychological counseling is recommended to deal with the emotional stress of the disease. In conclusion, the prognosis for MS is varied to each individual. The characteristics of the disease which include periods of remission and exacerbation occur at different rates and the outcome is uncertain. For those with the most severe cases, the tremors may worsen, muscles may weaken dramatically and paralysis develops.

Dysfunction of the bladder and bowel become apparent, and speech can become difficult as well. The optic nerve may be damaged by lesions and blindness may result. Multiple Sclerosis has the ability to damage and impair many major functions of the body; the challenge in fighting off the symptoms remains an enduring one for many.

Works Cited

http://www. mayoclinic. com/health/multiplesclerosis/D500188.
http://www. nationalmssociety. org/site/Pageserver? pagename.
http://www. nih. gov/.

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