If you or a loved one has multiple sclerosis (MS) you are more than aware of the symptoms. They are far reaching, but often include muscle weakness, vision problems, trouble with balance, coordination problems, memory issues, numbness, and prickling. These are just some of the symptoms, individual patients experience others and often, patients will have good and bad days.

While many patients understand multiple sclerosis, they don’t know how this autoimmune disease affects the body. Let’s look more closely at how MS is impacted by inflammation of the nervous system.

Multiple Sclerosis focuses on the Central Nervous System

Nerve damage can occur anywhere in the spinal cord or brain and result in multiple sclerosis. Therefore, symptoms often vary from person to person. MS attacks the tissues of the brain and spinal cord, that together make up the central nervous system. This system is crucial for the body’s ability to send, receive and interpret information from all over the body. The spinal cord sends messages to the brain via nerve cells or neurons and your brain can then react appropriately dependent on the messages.

Neurons are made up of a cell body, dendrites, and an axon. The axon, or nerve fibre, is coated in a fatty material called myelin. Research shows that multiple sclerosis directly targets and attacks this myelin, breaking it down and interrupting the body’s nerve signals.

MS begins with Inflammation

Most research and neurological scientists point towards multiple sclerosis starting with inflammation. Infection-fighting white blood cells triggered by an unknown force enter the central nervous system and begin to attack the nerve cells. Scientists believe this unknown force may be a latent virus, a genetic trigger, or an immune system malfunction.

When inflammation begins, multiple sclerosis becomes active. The attacking white blood cells break down the myelin protecting your neuron’s nerve fibres (axons). Now damaged, nerve fibres cannot efficiency transmit nerve impulses and patients experience the symptoms of MS. Damaged nerve fibres also begin to repair, with a form of scar tissue replacing the areas of damaged myelin. These areas of damage are technically described as lesions or plaques. Patients with MS often have significant areas of damage, and this is usually a clear indicator of the presence of MS.

What happens after Inflammation?

Periods of inflammation during MS can last anywhere from a few days to several months. Patients with relapsing or remitting types of multiple sclerosis may experience periods of remission with no symptoms once inflammation settles. This also gives the nerves a chance to try and repair. Some patients experience years of remission.

Progressive multiple sclerosis patients often do not experience significant periods of inflammation and unfortunately may not experience remission periods either.

Dr Paviour is an experienced consultant neurologist working with many patients with multiple sclerosis. A neurologist can help treat MS symptoms in various ways, and by arranging a consultation to discuss your symptoms, they can advise on the best steps to take. To find out more or to book an appointment with Dr Dominic Paviour please get in touch

Stephanie021299, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons