The Alarming Spread of Multiple Sclerosis Among Young Adults

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Multiple sclerosis can be seen as a disease that affects the brain, optic nerves in the eyes, and the spinal cord. This disease is not curable making it long-lasting and it affects the central nervous system. This causes problems with a person’s vision, balance, muscle control, and other basic body functions. The cause is unknown, but genetics and environmental factors are seen to play a role. MS is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system attacks its own tissues and cells. The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (1998-2019) states that the immune systems impairment is seen to damage the fatty substances that covers and protects the nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. The fatty substance is called myelin and it helps the nerve fibers to conduct electrical impulses (Kasser & Lytle, 2013). This damages the nerves that signal to the spinal cord, brain and optic nerves causing the symptoms of this disease. This destruction is seen to cause the disability that many people with MS experience.

When diagnosing multiple sclerosis, it can be very difficult because there is no single test that proves a person has this. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50 and it is seen more so in women than men (National MS Society, 2009, p.10). According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (1998-2019), doctors tend to look for damage in at least two areas of the central nervous system. They also look at medical history, symptoms, and they perform tests to determine if the spinal cord and brain are working properly. Damage to the myelin in the central nervous system and to nerve fibers interferes with the transmission of the nerve signals between the brain and spinal cord as well as with other parts of the body. This causes the symptoms that occur within people with MS. With that, the signs and symptoms of MS vary and depend mainly on the nerve damage. Some common symptoms are muscle weakness, blurred/double vision, spasticity, tremors, impaired balance, discoordination, heat sensitivity, and fatigue (Moss, Rensel, & Hersh, 2017). There are many symptoms that are included with this disease, most including physical and neurological problems.

Some people with MS can lose their ability to walk, and others tend to experience long periods of remission without any symptoms. It is seen to be a disease the affects a person mildly, but some people lose their ability to write, speak, or walk. Patients may become immobile needing to use a walker, cane, or wheelchair. With this, they may also experience cognitive impairment as well as problems with the nervous system. It is seen that osteoporosis can be caused due to a lack of weight-bearing exercises and severe bladder or kidney dysfunction can occur because of chronic urinary problems (1998-2019). Most times people who have this do not return back to their normal state. An interesting fact stated by the National MS Society (2009) is that some people with MS can experience an uncomfortable, abnormal neurological sensation known as Lhermitte’s sign. This sensation travels down the spine and into the legs when they bend their head forward.

There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis. Instead, there are many medications, strategies, and therapies used to help with speeding recovery from attacks, slowing the progression of the disease, and managing the symptoms. One strategy that can be helpful for individuals with MS is to modify the disease course. By doing this, individuals reduce the number of relapses, rate of progression and development of new lesions through FDA approved drugs. There are many medications and therapies used to help with speeding recovery from attacks, slowing the progression of the disease, and managing the symptoms. Medications such as muscle relaxants are given to patients. Treating acute attacks, also known as relapses or exacerbations, help to shorten the duration and reduce severity (National MS Society, 2009, p. 14).

Another type of treatment/activity that is helpful for people with MS are occupational and physical therapy. According to Haselkorn, (2015), many studies have shown that both types of therapies help patients to still be able to perform tasks independently and to maintain the body’s ability to move and function. The occupational therapist provides information and modifications to simplify your everyday routine and to make sure that their patient is being and performing each exercise and activity safely. Physical therapy helps with walking and mobility, strength, balance, posture, fatigue, and pain. Overall, they just want their patients to maintain optimal functioning. These studies showed that both therapies have a positive effect.

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In regards to Ziemssen, et. al, (2016), some physical and occupational therapy assessments include fatigue impact scale, walk test, manual muscle test, equipment assessment, activity diary, sleep questionnaire, and evaluation of medications and the impact it is having, and a depression instrument. These assessments that both therapists and doctors use, help to determine a patient’s cognitive, physical and mental abilities. It also helps to critique them which helps to determine what they can benefit from and what can help them and their disease. Some other assessments that are used are physical exams, neurological exams, and MRI’s.

With all this information given, there is no prevention for multiple sclerosis. Instead, the treatments and activities listed above are all types of things to help to prevent flare-ups and can also help to reduce pain and symptoms that occur. It is very likely for a doctor to recommend someone with multiple sclerosis to attend physical and occupational therapy to reduce symptoms and manage the pain that occurs with this type of disease. Therapies and medicine help to relieve pain while also giving the person the strength to still live independently.

Multiple sclerosis motor symptoms consist of weakness, dragging of the leg, stiffness, a tendency to drop things, feeling of heaviness, clumsiness, impact on hand dexterity, and a lack of coordination. These are all things that are associated with muscle tightness and weakness that tends to limit a limb’s range of movements. These are impacted by MS because of the effect that it has on the brain as well as the spinal cord. Due to the sensory damage associated with MS, the brain is impaired which causes a loss of sensation, strength, and dexterity, hence the motor symptoms that occur.

Some motor activities may include gross motor skills like lifting one’s head, rolling over, sitting up, balancing, crawling, or walking. Examples of fine motor skills could be to manipulate small objects, transfer objects, and various hand-eye coordination tasks. Some exercises that can be performed for motor skills are stacking pennies, pinching clothespins, stringing beads, putting together puzzles, practice typing, picking up small objects, and performing thera-putty exercises (HealthCare Journey, LLC, 2019). All in all, being physically active is important for everyone, not just people who have a disease. Although exercise has not been shown to slow the progression or get rid of MS, it does help to decrease complications that come with muscle fatigue, weakness, contractures, and spasticity (National MS Society, 2009). In a study done by the University of Utah, it showed the benefits of exercise for people with MS. The participants who did aerobic exercise had better cardiovascular fitness, bladder and bowel function, less fatigue and depression, more of a positive attitude, and increased participation in social activities (National MS Society, p. 15).

Fitness activities for MS patients include aerobic exercises, stretching, and progressive strength training. Some aerobic exercises may include walking, jogging, or swimming to increase the heart rate. These activities can be done at a moderate level so that a person does not overdo themselves. Stretching is also another exercise recommended so that a person with MS can maintain their range of motion and ease symptoms that are related to spasticity. Some strength or resistance training can be free weights, weight lifting classes, or just participating in exercise with machines, weights, or bands. Besides attending physical therapy, people with MS can get active through fitness classes or even at-home activities. According to the National MS Society (2009), tai chi yoga, water aerobics are all well-known activities that people with MS participate in. Some other home fitness activities may include gardening, chores, or even walking the dog.

Participating in both motor and fitness activities can be seen to have a positive effect on people who have MS. Not only does it help them to maintain strength, but it gives them a purpose and self-confidence. The symptoms that occur with MS can get in the way of everyday activities. This can create some physical, emotional, or cognitive barriers. With activities such as the examples listed above, it can really impact a person and make them aware that they can still perform tasks independently no matter the situation.

All in all, multiple sclerosis is seen to be the most common neurological disorder amongst young adults. It attacks the brain and spinal cord at different locations as well as times. With this disease, it is not something that is noticeable right away. It eats at a person slowly and affects them tremendously. Not only does it affect a person physically, but it can also cause emotional and mental barriers as well. Due to the impact that this disease has on a person, there are many resources and strategies that can be used to help a person with MS maintain strength physically and mentally. People who suffer from this disease should focus on all aspects of MS, which are physical, emotional and psychological symptoms.

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