Multiple Sclerosis… Basics

When I got my diagnosis in May of 2003, I really didn’t know what MS meant, my Mum was with me, I think she got upset but I was very calm.  My Mum’s sister already had it and my Dad’s sister had died from it but for me it meant nothing.  I was completely ignorant to how it was going to change my world..

When I look back now, it was the catalyst to change my world for the better.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Lets start at the beginning, we all have a nervous system in our body, it is called the Central Nervous System (CNS) and it is through it that our brain sends messages along the spinal cord, to get us to do things like walk or lift a cup or look at something.  MS can affect all these fundamental actions.  When you have MS, my understanding of what happens is that certain white blood cells pass over the blood brain barrier (this doesn’t happen in someone without MS) in the brain and go on to attack the myelin.  Myelin is the protective coating around your nerves, I always picture it being like the insulation that goes around wires in a lead to a plug.  It is an Autoimmune Disease as the body is attacking itself.  When Myelin gets attacked, it gets inflamed ie swollen, red and sore and it also gets damaged, so you get loss of function.  This demyelination is followed by some repair and scaring.  What does this mean to us, after demyelination or an attack,  messages from the brain can’t travel as well along the nerve/axon and the area damaged loses some function. With every attack, you can lose more function and that is why the illness is usually progressive.  The demyelination results in lesions that are visible on an MRI scan, which is one of the ways the neurologist diagnoses MS.

This all sounds a little glum but from what I have read and what I believe, the key is to stop the disease progressing.  This is done by natural (nutrition, sunlight, meditation, exercise, positivity) and if required medical therapies.  This is why I whole heartily recommend the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis book by George Jelinek.  I have read many books over the years but feel that, this one changed my life, helped me to understand MS more and take steps to slow the progression.

Types of MS
There are 4 types (see below).  It can be difficult to know what category you fall into or what your prognosis will be, you just have to wait and see what happens.

  1. Benign – where someone gets one or two attacks, with no disability, I think this affects around 20% of people
  2. Relapse Remitting (also know as RR)- this is where I fit in, you get an attack followed by a remission and some repair, each attack leaves a little bit of damage/demyelination, around 65 to 70% of people get this diagnosis
  3. Secondary Progressive – this is where most RR MS patients end up, this is because of the continued accumulation of lesions, the damage is getting added to every time you have an attack as you don’t repair fully.
  4. Primary Progressive – this is where some one has an attack and then goes rapidly downhill.  They never seem to have separate attacks or remissions.  This affects around 10 to 15% of people.

When I considered the above progression I realised that I wanted to learn and do whatever I could to slow down my progression, my MS.   The last thing that I wanted was to end up being a burden to anyone, I wanted to keep my independence, which I think is the fear of anyone newly diagnosed.  So now I spend my time, constantly trying to do all the right things, diet, sunshine, exercise, meditation and positivity.  It is not always easy but I think it has paid off (except for the occasional bad day).  I have found peace and the ability to live in the moment and not worry about the future.

Other interesting facts

  • MS is common, particularly further from the equator and it incidence is increasing
  • MS mainly affects young people in there 20s or 30s
  • There is a higher proportion or women to men, approx 3 :1
  • MS is more common in family members of people who have MS
  • MS is thought to be 30% genetic and 70% environmental


3 thoughts on “Multiple Sclerosis… Basics

  1. thank you for being so good at writing and giving information, you do it very well, and your website is very good too, congratulations. lista de email lista de email lista de email lista de email lista de email

    Posted by lista de email | May 3, 2013, 5:30 pm
  2. Hi there, I have just read your article and wondered if you had looked in to having vitamin D. I read about this on an American website. I am currently going through the process of getting diagnosed. I have had what appears to b 3 deprecate attacks over the past year, it was as if I had the most terrible virus and nothing showed in initial blood tests. Onthis occasion I have been told I need to take iron tablets. My fatigue can be extreme which means I am too tired to exercise. Sonext week I am back to the doctors to convince themi need further tests. My body is getting so stiff I feel ancient I need to stop being palmed off by doctors and get a diagnosis either way

    Posted by Roni | September 15, 2012, 9:02 am
    • Hi Roni
      Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. I do take Vitamin D and I find it wonderful, it means that I don’t tri as much as I used to as I have a dropped foot. It also has the added benefit of giving me a tan, when I get to the sun 🙂
      For stiffness I would recommend Magnesium, I find it good to stop my leg jumping. There is a group called MS friends on FB that I find wonderful for getting helpful suggestions from. if you find me on fb, I will add you as it is a closed group, only people with MS.

      Posted by msinthecity | September 17, 2012, 3:18 pm

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