Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that affects roughly 100,000 people in the UK. Most individuals diagnosed with the condition are between the ages for 20-40. It can also affect those who are younger and older than this age range. Women are also three times more likely to suffer from MS compared to men. MS affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord which can lead to problems with muscle movement, balance and vision.
Causes of Multiple Sclerosis
MS is an autoimmune condition where the myelin coating around the nerve fibres including the nerve fibres themselves are attacked. The myelin as a result become inflamed in small patches. This is known as lesions or plaques. In MRI scans this is one of the way MS is diagnosed.
The cause of MS is unclear however most experts believe that MS could be down to both genetic and environmental factors. According to research if someone is related to a patient with MS they are more likely to develop it. Research has also found a twin is 25% more likely to develop MS if their twin has developed the condition. The chances of a brother, sister or child of a patient diagnosed with the condition themselves is less than 1 in 30.
- The link between MS, sunlight, and Vitamin D- Research has shown that MS is more common in countries further from the equator such as the UK, North America and Scandinavia. The condition is not as common in Malaysia or Ecuador as an example. Some studies have found there to be a link between lower levels of vitamin D and MS. It is possible that those living further from the equator are exposed to less sunlight and therefore have less vitamin D.
- Smoking - Smoking can also increase the risk of developing MS although it is unclear yet as to why this is.
- Viral infections - It is thought that there may be some link between viral infections and MS, although more research needs to be done into this link.
Signs and symptoms
There are many different types of symptom associated with MS and the symptoms may vary from one individual to another. Some common symptoms include:
- Numbness and tingling
- Blurred Vision
- Loss of balance
- Issues with mobility
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle spasm
- Mental health issues
- Bladder problems
- Bowel problems
- Speech problems
- Swallowing difficulties
The symptoms can vary dramatically and can increase steadily over time for some. For others symptoms may come and go periodically.