Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the brain and spinal cord. The immune system attacks the protective sheath called myelin that covers nerve fibers. When there is no myelin, the fibers do not conduct the electrical impulses. This causes interruptions in the signals that the brain sends to the rest of the body. The myelin sheath disappears in parts of the brain leading to a scar or sclerosis. Gradually, the nerves deteriorate or become permanently damaged.
There are different types of MS. They are as follows:
Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) is first episode of neurological symptoms (lasting for at least 24 hours). There is 30-70% chance that it may progress to MS in future.
Relapse-remitting MS is the most common form of MS, affecting around 85% of the population with increasing symptoms.
Primary progressive MS is where symptoms worsen progressively with no relapse.
Secondary progressive MS is where after the initial episode, the disease progresses steadily.
What are the Symptoms of MS
The signs and symptoms of MS include:
- Numbness and weakness of the limbs
- Partial or complete loss of vision
- Visual disturbances
- Tingling sensation in parts of the body
- Electric-shock sensations during certain neck movements called Lhermitte sign
- Tremor or unsteady gait
- Slurred speech
- Bowel and bladder functions disability
- Sexual dysfunction
- Spasticity and muscle spasms
- Emotional imbalances
- Hearing loss
What are the Causes of MS
The cause for the development of MS is unknown, though a combination of genetics and environmental factors are expected to be responsible. Research is shown that MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues. In MS, the immune system destroys myelin. When this protective myelin sheath is damaged, the nerve fibers are exposed thus the messages that travel along these nerves are blocked. Some of the risk factors of MS are:
- Age between 20 and 50 years are more prone to MS
- More women develop MS than men
- Individuals of the European ethnicity are greatly affected
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Epstein-Barr virus, mononucleosis, and varicella zoster trigger MS
- Individuals with thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, or inflammatory bowel disease are prone to MS
- Smoking also triggers MS
How is MS Diagnosed
Differential diagnosis is performed to rule out other complications and infer MS as there are no specific diagnostic test for MS. Some procedures are as follows:
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) in which a sample of fluid is removed from your spinal canal, which helps in showing abnormalities in antibodies that are associated with MS.
- Brain MRI that shows MS lesions
- Blood tests to rule out other conditions
How is MS Treated
MS cannot be cured completely. The signs and symptoms of MS can be treated unlike other diseases where the disease itself can be cured. The severity of the disease can be reduced by MS treatment options. Other medications for depression, pain, sexual dysfunction, and bladder or bowel control problems are used to lessen the effects of MS.
Stem Cell Therapy for MS
The treatments available for MS can only lessen the effects of its symptoms. In other words, MS treatment is considered to act as a rehabilitative approach to reduce the symptoms. Stem cells help MS patients in addressing the challenges in disease progression. Stem cell therapy is the most preferred non-invasive treatments available. Stem cells can differentiate into the required cells when there is a damage and there is a necessity for the cells to regenerate. Several research claims that these stem cells when infused into the cerebrospinal fluid differentiate into neuronal precursor cells, thereby restoring the lost brain function. Stem cells have the ability to repair damaged neurons and regenerate lost myelin. Also, stem cells have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties, which help in the regeneration of the damaged nerve fibers.