Multiple sclerosis (MS) is chronic inflammation of the nerve cells in the brain and in the spinal cord. The disease often progresses in episodes with neurological symptoms such as vision problems, impaired speech or muscle weakness. Multiple sclerosis may differ greatly from patient to patient. Although there is still no cure, the course and the symptoms of multiple sclerosis can be positively influenced with different treatment measures.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. The body’s own immune system attacks the protective sheath of the nerves in the brain and in the spinal cord, which causes chronic inflammation of the nerves. It is unclear why this autoimmune reaction occurs. MS can principally occur at any age; however, it is most common between the age of 20 and 40. In contrast to men, women are around twice as likely to fall ill with the disease.
There are three different types of multiple sclerosis. Primary chronic progressive MS proceeds chronically from the onset and gets increasingly worse. Relapsing-remitting MS progresses in episodes with abatement of the symptoms between the episodes. Secondary chronic progressive MS changes to an episodic course in a chronic form after a certain time, and the symptoms get increasingly worse.
The symptoms and impact of MS can vary markedly from patient to patient. The most common symptoms include vision problems, impaired speech and swallowing difficulties, loss of memory and concentration difficulties, muscle weakness, muscle twitches, mood changes, pain and lack of feeling.
Multiple sclerosis is not easy to diagnose and requires different examinations. They include neurological examinations and eye, muscle, coordination and sensation tests. If there is suspected MS, MRI examinations of the brain and a lumbar puncture are also carried out to examine the cerebrospinal fluid.
The treatment of MS depends on the form of the disease, the severity and the impact on the individual patient. The treatment usually involves a step-by-step therapy which is tailored to the individual patient situation. It is normally a combination of medical treatment with physiotherapeutic, ergotherapeutic and psychotherapeutic support.