Author: Kathleen Byrant, Clinical Pharmacist
During the month of March, people around the world unite to raise awareness of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and of efforts to find treatments and a cure for this potentially debilitating disease.
MS is a disease that involves the body’s immune system attacking the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord and nerve fibers. The damage disrupts nerve signals between the brain and other parts of the body. The symptoms can be variable and unpredictable, and no two people have exactly the same symptoms.
5 Important Facts About MS
- It can range in severity. For some patients, symptoms can be inconvenient and irritating, and for others it can be paralyzing and even fatal. The most common symptom, occurring in about 80% of people, is fatigue. People can also have muscle weakness and trouble with walking or balancing. Many others also have numbness and tingling in extremities, vision problems and cognitive changes.
Life expectancy is about seven years less than the general population but is increasing over time thanks to treatment breakthroughs and improvements in general healthcare.
- The cause is unknown. With MS, the immune system attacks myelin, which is the fatty substance that covers nerve fibers. Researchers don’t know why this happens, but they are aware of several risk factors. MS is not an inherited disease, but the genetic risk may be inherited. About 200 genes have been identified that may contribute to developing MS.
Other risk factors include smoking, obesity and a medical history of certain viral infections. Also, Caucasian adults between the ages of 20 and 50 and women are more likely to develop MS.
- It is difficult to diagnose. At this time, there is no lab test or physical finding that can, on its own, determine if a person has MS. Since its symptoms overlap with many other diseases and conditions, doctors must eliminate all other potential diagnoses before arriving at MS.
They do this by conducting a thorough medical exam, often using MRI scans, to look for evidence of damage to the central nervous system. Doctors also review a person’s medical history and may order blood tests and evoked potential tests, which measure electrical activity in the brain.
- Exercise helps manage MS symptoms. Although MS may limit the endurance and mobility of many patients, an exercise program can help improve strength and cardiovascular fitness. It can also help create a more positive attitude and increased participation in social activities. Physical therapists experienced with MS can design and supervise exercise programs that fit the capabilities and limitations of the individual.
- Researchers are making progress. Scientists are learning more about how MS damages the nervous system, and investigating ways to repair myelin. Several clinical studies are underway that are testing new approaches to treating all forms of MS, including several new drug therapies, and repurposing therapies that are already approved for other conditions.
MS Support with Amber Pharmacy
Amber Pharmacy is doing our part to support MS patients with our Neurology Center of Excellence. Our team has the clinical expertise and experience to serve patients with MS and other neurological conditions. Contact us if you have any questions about your treatment, including how to take your medication and manage side