Understanding multiple sclerosis this MS Awareness Week

This week (22–28 April) is MS Awareness Week. The campaign week aims to increase awareness of multiple sclerosis (MS) and raise some funds to help those living with the condition.

WHAT IS MS?

MS is an autoimmune condition, which means the immune system attacks the body’s myelin in the brain and spinal chord.

Myelin is the outer coating of the body’s nerves. This means it protects the nerves and allows the electrical signals from the brain to travel throughout the body.

In MS, these signals are inhibited, which can slow them down, disrupt them, or stop the messages getting through altogether, which leads to the symptoms of MS.

SYMPTOMS

There are different signs and symptoms to look out for, which can affect any part of the body, including:

  • fatigue
  • vision problems
  • pain
  • difficulties with speech and swallowing
  • problems with thinking, learning and planning
  • muscle spasms, stiffness and weakness
  • numbness and tingling
  • bladder and bowel problems

DIAGNOSIS

Reaching a diagnosis can be complicated, due to the range of symptoms. The majority of people are diagnosed throughout their thirties, forties and fifties, but often the symptoms appear earlier.

A number of different tests are available to determine whether someone has MS, including an MRI, a neurological exam, evoked potential test, lumbar puncture and blood tests.

Once a diagnosis has been reached, treatment can begin. This can include treatments for individual symptoms, and treatment to reduce relapses.

Individuals with MS will work closely with a team of healthcare professionals, and will also be assigned an MS nurse, who serves as the main point of contact.

SUPPORT

Receiving an MS diagnosis can be daunting, but there is support out there to help you navigate your feelings during this time, and ensure you receive the medical treatment and emotional help that you need.

The MS Society, MS Trust and MS-UK work UK-wide, raising funds and carrying out vital research. They also have dedicated helplines and online communities to ask questions and hold discussions with like-minded individuals.

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