Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
If you are currently searching for a diagnosis for your fibromyalgia-like symptoms, you may have a long battle ahead of you. Fibromyalgia syndrome is associated with dozens of different symptoms, many of which are commonly found in other illnesses. Some fibromyalgia sufferers are initially misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system. This article will outline the signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis, which will aid you in finding the right diagnosis for you illness.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is an illness that affects your central nervous system. Your central nervous system is made up of your brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. This system helps to control your bodily functions. With MS, the tissue that surrounds the nerves in the central nervous system (called myelin) becomes damaged, impairing your ability to carry out certain functions. Affecting over 400,000 Americans, MS is a progressive disease that tends to get worse over time.
Multiple Sclerosis and Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can initially be mistaken for MS. The two illnesses share many symptoms including:
- muscle stiffness
- loss of muscle function
However, fibromyalgia is actually distinct from MS. Encourage your health care provider to perform neurological exams to determine if you have MS. This will allow you to progress faster with your diagnosis and receive quicker fibromyalgia treatment.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis
MS is classified into four types.
- Relapsing-Remitting: This is the most common type of MS. It is characterized by clear flare-ups followed by periods of remission.
- Primary Progressive: This type of MS progresses slowly and is characterized by progressively worsening symptoms.
- Secondary Progressive: This type of MS develops from relapse-remitting MS. It is characterized by worsening symptoms.
- Progressive-Relapsing: This type of MS is very rare. It involves symptoms that steadily worsen but also attack during clear flare up periods.
What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?
The cause of MS remains unknown, however, it is believed that it is probably an autoimmune disease. Typically, your immune system is responsible for attacking and killing foreign cells and bacteria. People with autoimmune diseases however, have immune systems that are faulty. These faulty immune systems are unable to recognize natural cells and tissues. People with MS seem to have an immune system that attacks the myelin surrounding their nerves.
Other factors are also thought to contribute to MS.
- environmental factors, including certain viruses and toxins
Who Gets Multiple Sclerosis?
Anyone can get multiple sclerosis. However, certain people seem to be more likely to develop the disease.
Risk factors include:
- Being between the ages of 20 and 40.
- Being female (two to three times more women are diagnosed with the disease).
- Being of Northern European descent.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Like fibromyalgia symptoms, MS symptoms are numerous and widespread. Each sufferer deals with different symptoms, which can change on a daily or weekly basis.
Symptoms often come in the form of attacks, followed by a period of remission.
Common multiple sclerosis symptoms include:
- abnormal sensations, such as numbness and tingling
- irritable bladder and bowel
- muscle weakness and muscle spasms
- vision problems
- cognitive dysfunction, including memory loss and confusion
- problems with coordination
Multiple Sclerosis Treatment
There is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, there are a number of different MS treatments aimed at reducing the progression of the disease as well as at eliminating symptoms.
MS treatment takes a multi-faceted approach and can involve:
- medications to reduce symptoms
- disease modifying drugs, like Betafere, Avonex, Rebif, and Copaxone
- physical therapy
- occupational therapy
- dietary therapy