Multiple sclerosis disease with 1000 faces

In Germany, at least 130,000 people have multiple sclerosis (MS). The causes are still in the dark.

Sande According to the German Multiple Sclerosis Society (DMSG), about 2,500 new cases of MS are diagnosed each year in Germany. The first symptoms of the disease usually appear in young adulthood between the 20. and 40. The onset of the disease is around the age of 18, with women being affected about twice as often as men. In rare cases, the disease already occurs in childhood and adolescence. It is even rarer that the first signs only become noticeable in old age.

The causes of MS are still unknown. "There are no known single risk factors that have been scientifically proven to lead to MS disease," says Prof. Dr. Pawel Kermer, Head Physician of the Neurological Clinic of the Nordwest-Krankenhaus Sanderbusch in Sande (Friesland District). The only certainty is that there is a genetic disposition and a familial accumulation. However, MS is not a hereditary disease.

Misdirected defense

In a healthy person, the brain sends a multitude of signals via the spinal cord to the toes and fingertips every second. Nerve fibers distributed throughout the body are used as a conductive system, each of which is surrounded by a protective layer – similar to an electric cable. In MS, inflammation of the nervous system occurs in the area of the brain and spinal cord, which is triggered by misprogramming of the body's immune system. Instead of harmful invaders, the immune system fights its own body.

The antibodies formed in the process attach themselves to the protective sheath of the nerve fibers and cause disturbances and damage from there. As a result, MS-typical symptoms including the feared neurological deficits can occur, explains Prof. Dr. Dr. Kermer: "The messages sent by the brain can no longer be transmitted correctly because of the inflammation."

First MS symptoms are for example sensory disturbances like tingling or numbness in the limbs, inexplicable visual disturbances or also coordination problems, which lead for example to an increased stumbling when walking.

As a rule, a variety of causes contribute to the development of MS. Since MS can cause very different symptoms and run differently in each affected person, it is also called the disease with 1000 faces. MS can manifest itself in various forms, but most often progresses to a chronic course. In around 70 percent of patients, the disease occurs in irregular episodes. The symptoms then present themselves suddenly. For no apparent reason. After some time, they largely or completely disappear – until the next episode.

Treat early

Especially in the case of an initially mild course, MS often remains undetected for a long time. This is precisely what can have dire consequences for those affected, which in most cases could be prevented, according to Prof. Dr. Kermer: "Thanks to new medical possibilities and modern medications, we can help MS patients today, especially if the disease is detected and treated at an early stage."

Current research confirms that most people with MS can manage their disease well with effective and consistent treatment. Thus, it is becoming increasingly possible to reduce both the frequency and the severity of the relapses. Nevertheless, a severe course of the disease can still not be ruled out. The DMSG ames that MS leads in about five percent of the cases to the fact that the concerning is dependent on a wheelchair.

Treatment options have improved significantly, especially for relapsing forms of the disease, thanks to newly developed drugs. This applies both to basic therapy, which aims to reduce disease activity, and to escalation therapy, which is used when the disease is highly active or cannot be controlled with basic therapy.

During treatmentIn the treatment of MS, the most important thing is to prevent the development of inflammatory foci in the nervous system and, in acute cases, to make them subside. For this purpose, the immune system must be soothed from the outside. This is possible by means of various active substances that have been optimized or newly developed just recently.

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