Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease involving the brain and spinal cord. It occurs over time in multiple sites in these two areas of the nervous system. The cause is not known but it is thought that a person’s immune system for some reason attacks the sheath that surrounds and protects nerves, causing inflammation, scarring and damage to the underlying nerves.
Symptoms suffered depend on where and to what degree the nerves are affected. They include: reduced or abnormal sensation, weakness, vision changes, clumsiness, sudden loss of bladder control and vertigo. Symptoms might appear in any combination and be mild or severe. They are usually experienced for unpredictable periods of time.
These symptoms alone don't necessarily indicate MS and can easily be due to other unrelated conditions.
The diagnosis is made based on the history, examination and a number of tests including an MRI and sometimes a lumbar puncture. Blood tests are also looking for other conditions that can mimic the same symptoms.
There is no cure for MS but several treatments are available aimed at preventing attacks, improving symptoms and slowing progression. For more information visit www.msnz.org.nz