March is MS Awareness Month in Ohio
I have written a number of pieces over the years on the topic of multiple sclerosis, while always hoping I will never have to write another one. That day will come but until it does the need remains to make aware of this chronic disease of the central nervous system.
MS attacks nerve fibers leading to the destruction of the myelin that insulates the fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin facilitates electromechanical transmissions between the brain, the spinal cord and the rest of the body – in over simplified layman’s term, MS causes short circuits in the nervous system disrupting whatever function is controlled by the affected nerve.
The effects of MS may be mild or severe, of short or lifelong duration. To know MS is to know its many and various symptoms, most of which it has in common with others illnesses, making it difficult at times to correctly diagnose.
These symptoms include: blurred vision sometimes with pain; tingling and/or numbness; pain and involuntary muscle spasms; fatigue and weakness; problems with dizziness, balance and coordination; cognitive problems (memory, attention span, language); and emotional difficulties including depression. Other problems may include loss of hearing, seizures, shaking, breathing problems and slurred speech.
Any place in the body served by nerves may be affected by MS. Once thought to primarily attack young adults, it’s now known to affect people of all ages. And, for whatever reason, far more females have MS than males.
The disease is not specifically hereditary but one does have a higher chance of developing it if a close relative has it. The general population has a tenth of a percent to develop it while that goes up to 1 percent to 3 percent if a sibling or parent has it. There is also some sort of environmental factor with MS – it’s far more common in northern climates than southern. Ohio has more people with MS than almost any other state.
While there is, as yet, no cure for MS, a number of medications have been developed over the years that have advanced the knowledge it will take to eventually eliminate it and provide symptomatic relief to those fighting it. The earlier these medications are begun the more effective they are, so the earlier the disease is identified the better. That is the awareness this month is dedicated to – getting the word out so symptoms may be recognized, diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
We don’t know how many people may have been or will be helped with special months like this but even if only one person, it will be worth it. That person may even be you or someone you know and love. For more information, visit the National MS Society website at nationalmssociety.org.
Ambassador, National MS Society – Buckeye Chapter