Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the myelin sheaths around the axons of the brain and the spinal cord. Axons are actually long and thin projections of a nerve cell. Their primary task is to conduct electrical impulses from the neuron’s cell body and to bridge the informational gap between the brain and the body. Due to the inflammation, the myelin sheaths around the axons become damaged, and the communication between the brain and the rest of the body is broken. This further leads to demyelization and scaring and outbreak of many unusual symptoms. This is not so common disease and its prevalence ranges between 2 and 150 per 100,000.
Causes of multiple sclerosis
Scientists are yet unsure about what exactly causes the multiple sclerosis. It is most likely that this disease results from some kind of combination of different factors, including genetic, environmental and infectious. In this disease, human body, for some unknown reason, starts to attack its own myelin. Inflammation results as the inflammatory response in which the body tries to defeat this imaginary enemy. Certain studies have found a possible link between multiple sclerosis and vitamin D deficiency, since decreased sunlight (typical for regions far from the equator) seems to increase one’s risk of developing MS. However, science has no answer to the question what is the exact mechanism behind the development of the disease.
Prognosis for multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis manifests in a wide range of neurological symptoms. The exact type of symptoms depends on the region of the brain that is most affected. The severity of these symptoms, on the other hand, depends on the exact rate of damage myelin has suffered. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis also tend to come and go, in episodes, which makes it very hard to diagnose the disease and to predict its course.
The more or less precise prognosis depends on the subtype of the disease, initial symptoms and the degree of disability the patient experiences. Patient’s age and sex may also be important for prognosis. Multiple sclerosis is not a fatal disease and people usually have to live about 30 years from the onset of the disease. It gradually advances over many decades and most of the patients affected by multiple sclerosis (about 40 percent of them) are able to reach the age of 70. Premature deaths are typically associated with consequences of the disease but this can be controlled and managed by a proper therapy.
However, most of the patients will lose their ability to walk at some point of their lives. 90% of all patients will be capable of independent walking at 10 years from onset, and 75% at 15 years.