There is still to date no exact known cause for multiple sclerosis, it has frequently been suggested however that a virus will trigger the diseased process, but as yet no specific virus has been isolated. Multiple Sclerosis or ME is caused by the demyelination of parts of the spinal cord and brain.
Myelin is the outer covering of the nerves, which allows electrical impulses to be conducted along it. By losing patches of this material, electrical impulses get lost or stop and the nerve does not receive the message and therefore cannot function. The outer layers of the nerve have been associated with sensory stimulus, i.e. feelings and it is the loss of this that is usually noticed first.
Multiple sclerosis can affect the eyesight, and may affect in severe cases, perception and other thought processes in the brain. It can affect young adults up to middle age, and the prognosis will depend on the recurrence of episodes and their severity.
Sometimes a young person may have one episode in their late teens and then be fine for many years before it may reoccur.
A MRI scan is the most reliable way to confirm diagnosis. Initially no treatment will be given to determine the course the disease is to take. Occasionally steroid drugs are used to control flare-ups, and physiotherapy may be helpful to improve areas affected. A drug called Interferon-B has been found in certain cases to be helpful in reducing the frequency of attacks. However this drug is extremely expensive and therefore is not widely available.
There are many ME self-help groups across the country, and research is continuing all the time. There is a help-line in the United Kingdom for further information 0207 371 8000 between 10-4pm, and Tel 0207 6107171 for the M.E. Society.
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