BHealthy Blog

Multiple Sclerosis (MS): What You Need To know

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system. It is characterized by a range of symptoms and can be difficult to diagnose; however, understanding its risk factors, signs, and diagnosis can help you better manage or even prevent MS. Let’s take a closer look at what causes MS and its associated symptoms. 

What are the Symptoms of MS? 

The primary symptoms of MS are changes in sensation, vision problems, muscle spasms, fatigue, dizziness, and balance issues. Other common symptoms include pain, depression, bladder control problems, cognitive issues like memory loss or difficulty concentrating, and numbness or tingling in the body. 

Depending on the type of MS a patient may have, the symptoms may be more severe or milder than those experienced by someone else with the same condition. There are four key types of MS: 

  • Relapsing-Remitting: Those who suffer from relapsing-remitting MS experience periods of flare-ups or relapse and then long bouts of remission. 
  • Primary Progressive: Manifests itself as gradual nervous system degradation with no periods of remission. 
  • Secondary Progressive: Occurs when someone’s MS condition worsens over a length of time and exhibits many of the same symptoms as both relapsing-remitting and primary progressive MS.
  • Progressive Relapsing: Characterized by gradually worse MS symptoms with acute flares in between. 

It is important to note that all four types share similar symptoms but differ in how they progress over time. A professional diagnosis from a neurologist is essential to determine which type of MS an individual has contracted.

What Causes MS? 

Unfortunately, there is no known cause for MS; however, it is believed to be caused by an unidentified environmental factor combined with genetics. It has been linked to certain viruses, such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Still, there is no definitive proof that any one particular virus is the cause of MS. Other risk factors for developing MS include being over 40 years old and having a family history of MS. Additionally, women are twice as likely as men to develop this disorder.  

How Is it Diagnosed? 

MS can be difficult to diagnose due to its wide range of symptoms which can mimic other conditions; therefore, it is important to discuss any potential concerns with your primary care provider before making assumptions about your health status. Diagnosis typically requires a physical exam along with tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), lumbar puncture (LP), and evoked potentials (EP). Your doctor may also perform additional tests depending on your case. 

Although there currently is no cure for this autoimmune disorder, research suggests that early diagnosis and proper management can significantly reduce its progression and improve your overall quality of life. If you have any questions about this condition or want more information about its symptoms , speak with your Baptist Health healthcare provider today! Understanding MS can help you better identify potential risks and know when it’s time to see a doctor for further testing or treatment options.