Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease of the nervous system in which communication between the brain and other parts of the body is disrupted. Its effects can range from relatively benign in most cases to somewhat disabling to devastating. The symptoms may mysteriously occur and then disappear. In the worst cases, a person with MS may be unable to write, speak, or walk. Approximately 350,000 Americans have MS.

During an MS attack, inflammation occurs in areas of the white matter (pale-colored nerve tissue) of the central nervous system in random patches called plaques. This is followed by destruction of myelin, the fatty covering that insulates nerve cell fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin allows for the smooth, high-speed transmission of electrochemical messages between the brain, the spinal cord, and the rest of the body. When myelin is damaged, neurological transmission of messages may be slowed or blocked completely, resulting in diminished or lost function.

Signs and Symptoms

MS is accompanied by the following signs and symptoms.

What Causes It?

The cause of MS is unknown. Theories include a childhood virus that primes the immune system for an attack against myelin in early adulthood.

Who's Most At Risk?

People with the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for developing MS.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

If you or someone you care for are experiencing symptoms associated with MS, you should see your health care provider. Your provider will take a history of clinical symptoms, check for neurological problems, and refer you for lab tests, such as a cerebrospinal fluid exam and agar gel electrophoresis, and imaging procedures, such as a computed tomography scan (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Treatment Options

Treatment Plan

The primary goal of a treatment plan is to reduce the severity of attacks through the use of certain medications and to extend the individual's physical functioning for as long as possible.

Drug Therapies

Your provider may prescribe the following medications.

Surgical and Other Procedures

Surgery may be used to treat severe and disabling tremors or to reduce severe spasms.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

A comprehensive treatment plan for MS may include a range of complementary and alternative therapies.

Nutrition Potentially beneficial nutrient supplements include the following. Herbs
Herbal remedies may offer relief from symptoms. Herbs are generally available as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures (alcohol extraction, unless otherwise noted). Dose for teas is 1 heaping tsp per cup of water steeped for 10 minutes (roots need 20 minutes).

Use one to two of the following: hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) 200 mg two to three times per day, ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) 120 mg two times per day standardized extract, especially with cognitive impairment, quercetin (100 to 250 mg three times per day), especially with food sensitivities.

Combine the following herbs in equal parts to nourish the nervous system and prevent constipation: oatstraw (Avena sativa), skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia), lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), and horsetail (Equisetum arvense). Drink two to three cups tea daily or take 30 to 60 drops tincture twice a day.

Combination remedies may be used for fatigue, spasm, and to help rid the body of impurities.

Acupuncture may be used to alleviate symptoms.

Massage is important for maintaining flexibility and reducing spasticity, as well as improving the overall sense of well-being.

Prognosis/Possible Complications

About 70 percent of patients experience attacks and remissions, and about half of these undergo a chronic, progressive worsening after about 10 years. Ten to fifteen percent of patients experience a chronic, progressive worsening of the disease from the initial onset. Fifteen to twenty percent of patients follow a benign course. Most MS patients live for 30 years or more, many still working and mobile.

Following Up

Patients need lifelong monitoring, especially during flare-ups.


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