Sclerosis is defined as the stiffening of a structure, usually caused by a replacement of the normal organ-specific tissue with connective tissue. The structure may be said to have undergone sclerotic changes or display sclerotic lesions, which refers to the process of sclerosis. Meanwhile, multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system and it could affect the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves. Over 400 people in the United States is suffering from multiple sclerosis, and around 10,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Studies show that it is two to three times more common in women than in men, and diagnosis usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 50 years. Multiple sclerosis may affect the central nervous system, but experts are still unclear as to why it happens.
In the central nervous system, nerve fibers are surrounded by a myelin sheath, which protects them. Myelin also helps the nerves to conduct electrical signals quickly and efficiently. In multiple sclerosis, the myelin sheath disappears in multiple areas, leaving a scar, or results to sclerosis.
Science Daily posted that there is a new study from Tel Aviv University which stated that environmental factor plays a role in the disappearance of myelin sheath which results to sclerosis. The research showed that the myelin sheath experiences changes when salt concentration and temperature changes happen. These changes in structure make the body become more vulnerable to autoimmune attacks which could lead to multiple sclerosis.
“Current therapeutic approaches have focused on the autoimmune response without identifying the culprit,” says professor Roy Beck of Tel Aviv University’s School of Physics and Astronomy. He also added that they have found that certain environmental factors could affect the myelin sheath, which protects the neurons, by creating a small modification that results to structural instabilities that allow the immune system to attack the neurons. The researchers used X-Ray scattering and cryogenic transmission electron microscopy to monitor the myelin sheath.
Moreover, immunologists Roland Martin and Mireia Sospedra of University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland made a research to analyze immune cells to prove that these are the possible threats in developing multiple sclerosis. In an article by Science Magazine, they explained that the researchers focused on the immune cells known as T cells that automatically switches on whenever it encounters protein fragments that contain few amino acids which belong to an invading microbe. The researchers also tried to determine which protein shards affected the patient’s T cells, so they conducted an experiment with 200 fragment mixtures and the results showed that there is a two fragment that has a strong effect on the T cells and this enzyme is called guanosine diphosphate-L-fucose synthase. This enzyme helps the cells in remodeling sugars which are involved in organizing the memories and determining the person’s blood type.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis
Several phenotypes or patterns of progression, have been described and these phenotypes use the past course of the disease in an attempt to predict the future course. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society mentioned the four disease courses which have been identified in multiple sclerosis. These are clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), primary progressive MS (PPMS) and secondary progressive MS (SPMS).
Clinically Isolated Syndrome is the first episode of neurologic symptoms which are caused by inflammation and demyelination in the central nervous system. The 2017 diagnostic criteria for MS make it possible to diagnose MS in a person with CIS who also has specific findings on brain MRI that provide evidence of an earlier episode of damage in a different location and indicate active inflammation in a region other than the one causing the current symptoms. Meanwhile, relapsing-remitting MS is the most common disease course which is characterized by defined attacks of new or increasing neurologic symptoms. RRMS can be further characterized as either active or not active. As well as worsening or not worsening.
Secondary progressive MS follows an initial relapsing-remitting course. Most people who are diagnosed with RRMS will eventually transition to a secondary progressive course in which there is a progressive worsening of neurologic function over time. On the other hand, primary progressive MS is characterized by worsening neurologic function from the onset of symptoms, without early relapses or remissions.
Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
According to Medical News Today, the symptoms of multiple sclerosis could range from mild to debilitating. Patients with sclerosis might experience fatigue, numbness, tingling, vision problems, loss of mobility, and paralysis. Most people with multiple sclerosis might experience unusual fatigue and weakness because of the nerve damage in the spine and it commonly affects the legs which could come and go inconsistently for several weeks at a time. Tingling and numbness happen in the early stages of multiple sclerosis and it mostly occurs in the patient’s arms, face, fingers, and legs. These unwanted sensations could become more severe over time and it will come and go without the need for treatment.
The patient might also experience difficulty in thinking and there might also be a chance that they would develop emotional problems such as depression or unstable mood. The course of symptoms occurs in two main patterns initially either as episodes of sudden worsening that last a few days to months followed by improvement or as a gradual worsening over time without periods of recovery. These patterns could also combine with each other or the patient might start in a relapsing and remitting course that then becomes progressive later on.