Multiple Sclerosis

Natural and herbal remedies for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis

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  1. What is Multiple Sclerosis?
  2. Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis
  3. What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?
  4. Help for Multiple Sclerosis

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis or MS is a condition that affects the nerves in the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the central nervous system. The cause is thought to be due to an abnormality in the functioning of the immune system but the exact mechanism is still uncertain. It is a chronic, progressive disease, and as yet, there is no cure.

A fatty substance known as myelin surrounds our nerve fibers (axons), and acts as an insulator. Myelin helps these nerve fibers to transmit signals from the central nervous system to other parts of the body. When myelin is damaged, it can become inflamed, and the result is the formation of hardened scar tissue (sclerosis), or it can be ‘removed’ (demyelination).

The body’s own immune cells attack the nervous system, and the spinal cord, brain and optic nerves are all affected – this causes the nerve impulses to slow down. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary because different nerves are affected at different times. People suffering from multiple sclerosis may experience episodes of vision loss, weakness in their muscles, numbness and pain.

Sometimes these attacks worsen (exacerbate), improve (remission), recur (relapse) or develop in other areas of the body. Attacks can last days, weeks or months, recurring or showing no symptoms at all. Multiple sclerosis tends to have a slow and insidious onset and can progress silently, without you even being aware that you may have the disease until the damage is quite severe and more obvious symptoms are noted.

Multiple sclerosis affects women more than men, particularly Caucasians. The disease typically begins between the ages 20 and 40, but it may also develop in children and the elderly. People with a family history of MS are more susceptible to developing this disease. MS is also more likely to occur in certain geographical areas such as the United States where over 400,000 people are affected, northern Europe, southern Australia and New Zealand.

People suffering from MS have to deal with many obstacles, as well as the uncertainty of the outcome of the disease. If symptoms are detected early, treatment can slow the progress of this disease. Although multiple sclerosis cannot be cured, there are various treatments that can help to ease the symptoms. There are also many techniques and lifestyle changes to help you manage this disease so that those with MS can lead a full and productive life.

Various Types of Multiple Sclerosis

Relapsing-remitting MS: During certain periods, symptoms can worsen (exacerbations) with increased frequency, as well as be reduced (remission).

Secondary progressive MS: In its early stages, this type of MS is similar to relapsing-remitting MS with relapses and remissions. It eventually progresses to secondary progressive MS when loss of physical and cognitive functions occurs.

Primary progressive MS: There are hardly any relapses occurring in this type of MS, but over a period of years, there is loss of physical and cognitive functions.

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Symptoms may include:

  • Vision abnormalities: These may include blurred vision, double vision, and inflammation of the optic nerve (called optic neuritis), involuntary eye movement or eye pain
  • Muscle weakness: There may be loss of muscle strength in the arms and legs which can result in paralysis
  • Paresthesia: Loss or alteration in feeling or sensation, most noticeably in the limbs. This is often one of the earliest signs of MS
  • Bladder and bowel dysfunction: People with multiple sclerosis often have problems with bladder and bowel control such as urgency to urinate, incontinence or constipation
  • Balance and coordination abnormalities: Multiple sclerosis can result in poor balance, uncoordinated movements, tremors, speech problems, dizziness or vertigo
  • Cognitive dysfunction: People with multiple sclerosis may have memory problems, trouble concentrating and reasoning.
  • Behavioral changes: Many people experience mood swings, depression or feelings of hopelessness
  • Pain: Various types of pain can occur during multiple sclerosis such as facial numbness, burning pain in the arms, legs or back and muscle pain
  • Sexual dysfunction: Multiple sclerosis can also affect sexual activity such as erectile dysfunction, painful intercourse or a loss of sexual sensitivity
  • Fatigue: Many people experience fatigue, they tire easily and there is a decrease in energy levels

Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis

The diagnosis of MS is determined by the patient’s medical history, physical and neurological examination. Other tests that will help to diagnose MS include:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests are performed so that any other conditions relating to multiple sclerosis may be ruled out.
  • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging is done by means of a special machine that uses a magnetic field to create images of the brain and spinal cord. It is used to detect inflamed or decreased myelin and the accumulation of scar tissue in the brain.
  • Spinal tap –Lumbar Puncture: A needle is inserted into the spinal column and a sample of the cerebrospinal fluid is analyzed. This procedure will be able to detect antibody levels in the CSF that may be indicative of multiple sclerosis.
  • Evoked potential tests: This test involves the generation of electric signals by the nervous system in response to stimuli. It evaluates sensory, visual and auditory functions, and also how nerve impulses are conducted.

What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?

The exact cause of multiple sclerosis is not known, but a combination of factors is likely to contribute to this disease:

  • Hereditary: Hereditary or genetic factors may play role in this disease. Someone who has a family member with multiple sclerosis stands a greater risk of developing this disease.
  • The immune system: In multiple sclerosis, inflammation occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks the nervous system – the brain and spinal cord.
  • Geography and climate: It has being suggested that multiple sclerosis affects people in areas located away from the equator such as North America, Europe and Australia.
  • Viruses: Viral infections may be a possible cause of multiple sclerosis but this has not yet been conclusively proven.

Help for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a long term chronic disease, and as yet no cure has being discovered. However, there are various treatments to control symptoms to slow the disease and improve the quality of life. Treatments include:

  • Immunotherapy is an immune modulating therapy that may help to slow down the disease or reduce the frequency of relapses
  • Steroids can help to reduce the severity of attacks
  • Antidepressants may be used to* improve behavioral symptoms such as depression and mood swings
  • *Medications can be prescribed to reduce urinary problems, and to minimize muscle spasticity
  • Physical therapy helps to strengthen muscles, improve balance and walking, and reduce pain and spasticity
  • Speech therapy may help when speech becomes impaired
  • Occupational therapy helps MS sufferers to cope with adaptations in their home and work.
  • Counseling can relieve emotional stress, and help the individual to express feelings about the impact of MS on their lives and relationships. Psychological support is vital to maintain a positive outlook and prevent feelings of hopelessness

Natural Remedies
There are a number of complementary and alternative therapies that can help to minimize the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. These include homeopathy, acupuncture, and massage.

Complementary treatments may be used together with conventional medicine or as an alternative. However, home treatment of MS is not recommended. Should you decide to explore alternatives to conventional medicine, consult a qualified homeopath that would be able to monitor your progress and ensure that you are receiving the correct treatment.

Herbal remedies for MS would typically include ingredients that would address symptoms which are most troublesome for the individual.

Some commonly recommended herbs include Avena sativa (nerve tonic), Lavendula angustifolia and Melissa officinalis and Passiflora incarnata (stress and anxiety), St John’s Wort (depression and nerve tonic), as well as various herbs for bladder problems, constipation and general inflammation. Biochemic tissue salts can be helpful as a safe anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic and to relieve cramps, improve circulation and support nervous system health.

It is important to make lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and resting as much as possible in order to manage the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

More Information on Multiple Sclerosis

Tips to Cope with MS
  • It is very difficult to cope with multiple sclerosis but there are lifestyle changes and techniques that can help. These suggestions include:
  • Eat a healthy diet from all the food groups but limit your salt, sugar and caffeine intake
  • Rest as much as possible because your energy levels will often be depleted
  • Exercise regularly but check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program
  • Maintain your normal daily activities as much as possible
  • void extreme temperatures because heat or high humidity can cause people with MS to experience a temporary worsening of symptoms.
  • Use equipment such as wheelchairs, scooters, canes or crutches to move around more easily
  • Keep a journal and write down your experiences, symptoms or feelings
  • Try relaxation and deep breathing exercises to combat stress
  • Make to-do lists and keep reminders of appointments or schedules that you can refer to in case you forget
  • Join a MS support group
  • Adapt your living area so that it is safe, easily accessible and aesthetically pleasing for you to function in
  • Develop your spiritual self
  • Maintain a positive attitude and change the way you think by accepting yourself and your disease
  • Social interaction with family and friends helps to keep your mind healthy
  • Develop new interests that will accommodate your physical abilities such as photography, creative writing or painting

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