Multiple Sclerosis

by Maria Eldho

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an neuron degenarative disease where the the body carries out an auto immune response and attacks its own body cells. The cells of the myelin sheath surrounding the axons of the brain and spinal chord are attacked by the white blood cells, damaging the myelin cells and preventing the smooth transmission of nerve impulses across the nervous system.

Myelin is a fatty tissue that surrounds the axon of a nerve that acts as an insulator to achieve fast and effective transmission of nerve impulses. Damage to the myelin sheath causes 'leakage' of the impulses, making them no longer fast enough for the body to respond efffectively. Once the myelin sheath degenerates, or demyelinates, it does grow back, but not fast enough to outpace the deterioration caused by MS. The build up of scar tissue caused by the demyelination disrupts the electrical impulses, making the neurons no longer useful, and the brain becomes unable to send and receive messages. These disruptions are the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.

This auto immune response can be triggered by various factors such as changes in environmental conditions, infections, gender, race and genetic reasons. The diesease is seen mostly in people between the ages of 20-40, and females have a three times greater chance of contracting MS than men.

How does MS affect the body?

Multiple Sclerosis affects different people in different ways. Some common symptoms include:

• Fatigue, occurring in about 80% of people.
• Numbness
• Walking, balance, and coordination problems
• Bladder dysfunction
• Bowel dysfunction
• Vision problems
• Dizziness and vertigo
• Sexual dysfunction
• Pain - up to 55% of people with MS have “clinically significant pain” at some time; almost 50% have chronic pain
• Cognitive function - approximately 50% of people with MS will develop problems with cognition.
• Emotional changes
• Depression
• Spasticity

The symptoms of MS varies with each attack. The symptoms can last up to days or maybe months, they can go away or the patient can relapse periodically. All of the symptoms associated with MS are caused by the deterioration of the myelin that coats the nerves.

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A Closer look

The body's immune system is designed to fight bacteria and other pathogens that enter the body. In Multiple Sclerosis, the immune system attacks its own body cells. This is called an auto immune response, and in MS, it is believed to be triggered by a common disease or an infection. This causes an increased flow of white blood cells towards the brain. Once there, these cells activate specific parts of the immune system and it begins to attack the myelin that surrounds the nerve cells. This causes inflammation of the myelin cells, and leads to degenration and damage of the tissue.

It is also belived that Multiple Sclerosis is caused by the break down of the blood-brain barrier. This barrier separates the blood cellls and the myelin, and its breakdown causes toxins and other bacteria to enter the brain and damage the myelin.

The damaged myelin sheath causes a build up of scar tissue, that causes the disruption in nerve signal transmissions. This damage affects the body's Nervous system, making its response system slow and ineffective. Once damaged, the body can regain its myelin (remyelination), but it is a slow process and only a small part of the damaged myelin is replaced.

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How does Multiple Sclerosis affect homeostasis?

The Central Nervous System is the most affected part of the body during Multiple Sclerosis. It is the body's messenger system, and MS causes damage to the myelin surrounding them, and in turn disrupts the whole chemical pathway. By not having an insulating fatty layer surrounding the nerve cells, the electrical signals leak and this results in issues with physical and cognitive responses.

The nervous system is comprised of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The hypothalamus within the brain plays a major role in the human body in maintaining homeostasis. It affects the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for controlling all the other organs in the body, and the pituitary gland, that controls all the other glands in the body. The nervous system regulates all the other systems in the body in order to maintain homeostasis.

Therefore damage to the nervous system can affect all processes that are involved in homestasis. Depending on which part of the brain is damaged, the patient may experience different symptoms, caused by disruptions of signals to carry out various homeostatic processes inside the body. The proper functioning of the body requires all systems to work together and in proper condition. Therefore MS can be fatal if not discovered in the early stages and treated properly.

Multiple Sclerosis is the most common demyelination disease of the Central Nervous System. While a specific cure for this condition is yet to be found, there are various treatments that can be underwent to decraese or prevent the symptoms.