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Getting to Know: What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?


The National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines multiple sclerosis (MS) as a chronic, unpredictable disease attacking the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. It is thought that the immune system attacks the person's healthy tissue.

Symptoms may be mild but can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, blindness and more. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms vary from person to person. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, but individuals as young as 2 and as old as 75 have developed MS. It is not considered a fatal disease because the vast majority of people who have MS live a normal life span. However, they may struggle to live as productively as they desire and may face increasing limitations.

Approximately 400,000 Americans have MS, and every week about 200 people are diagnosed. Worldwide, MS affects about 2.5 million people. The numbers can only be estimated because symptoms can be completely invisible, and U.S. Physicians are not required to report new cases to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anyone may develop MS, but studies have shown some patterns. It occurs more commonly among people with northern European ancestry. People of African, Asian, and Hispanic backgrounds are also diagnosed with MS, but the occurrence is much lower. Studies also suggest that genetic factors make certain individuals more susceptible than others, but there is no evidence that MS is directly inherited.

MS symptoms result when an immune-system attack affects myelin, the protective insulation surrounding nerve fibers of the central nervous system. Myelin is destroyed and replaced by scars of hardened "sclerotic" tissue causing underlying nerve fibers to be permanently severed. The damage appears in multiple places within the central nervous system. You may want to think of it like this, Myelin is an insulating material around an electrical wire; loss of myelin interferes with the transmission of nerve signals.

Research has not been able to find a cure for MS, but there are some FDA-approved medications that have shown to "modify" or slow down the underlying course of MS.
Every year advances are made on treating and understanding MS, and progress in research to find a cure is very encouraging.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society founded in 1946 supports research, provides educational programs, and offers services to people with MS. The society raises funds through a variety of special events. Two key fund-raising events are the Bike MS and Walk MS. Marc Livingston, one of our employees, has participated in the Bike MS over the past 10 years, raised a little over $5,000 for the cause, and rode around 150 miles on each ride.

On April 26, Neodesha MS Support Group is hosting a MS Walk. Contact Sue Wilkes at 620-325-3479 if you would like more information about the walk. Wilson Medical Center is a Silver Sponsor of the event. If you would like to help a team or get involved, it is not too late. Get Fit! Wellness Center has put a team together, and they would welcome any donation. Contact Julie Wittum at 620-325-2117 or other Get Fit team members. Walk for the Cause!