abnormal hardening of body tissue.
A chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, whose symptoms may include numbness, impairment of speech and of muscular coordination, blurred vision, and severe fatigue.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system. In MS, the coating around nerve fibres (called myelin) is damaged, causing a range of symptoms. Once diagnosed, it stays with you for life.
Myelin protects the nerve fibres in the central nervous system, which helps messages travel quickly and smoothly between the brain and the rest of the body.
In MS, the immune system, which normally helps to fight off infections, mistakes myelin for a foreign body and attacks it. This damages the myelin and strips it off the nerve fibres, either partially or completely, leaving scars known as lesions or plaques.
This damage disrupts messages travelling along nerve fibres – they can slow down, become distorted, or not get through at all.
As well as myelin loss, there can also sometimes be damage to the actual nerve fibres. It is this nerve damage that causes the increase in disability that can occur over time.
As the central nervous system links everything the body does, many different types of symptoms can appear in MS. The specific symptoms that appear depend upon which part of the central nervous system is affected and the job of the damaged nerve.
In my case there only appear to be lesions on my spine, and not in the brain, and so I don’t suffer from any vision or speech impairment or cognitive issues. My symptoms are mainly sited below the diaphragm- my legs don’t work fully and I am wheelchair bound; my bladder and bowel give me problems. However over the past year or so I have also gradually lost sensation and dexterity in my hands and arms.
My particular form of MS is called Primary Progressive (PPMS) which often onsets later in life, as in my case. As the name suggests, the condition will gradually worsen over time, the only unknown is the actual rate of the progression. A more common form of MS often affects people at a younger age, and is called Relapsing Remitting (RRMS). In this case the sufferer will experience periods of exaggerated symptoms followed by some amount of recovery.
Learn more about research into Progressive MS, and how to donate, here.