March is Multiple Sclerosis Month, declared so by New Jersey Governor Christie in 2015. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system and can have a devastating impact on the daily lives of sufferers, including causing blindness, acute pain, difficulty processing information, problems with balance and coordination, sometimes even paralysis and overwhelming fatique. This happens, as the myelin, or protective covering, which surrounds the nerves, is damaged and eventually destroyed, causing reduced communication between the brain and nerve pathways.
MS can occur at any age, but most are diagnosed between the ages of twenty and fifty, but there are reported cases as young as two and as old as seventy-five. It is estimated that over two million people world wide have MS, with more than two to three times being women over men. While there is no cure at the moment for MS, the disease is not fatal either, with experts currently estimating that those with MS will live seven years less than their healthy counterparts. While there are no specific risk factors studies, have shown that those deficient in vitamin D and those who smoke cigarettes are at a higher risk.
Diagnosis is sometimes difficult as symptoms of the disease often come and go. Making it difficult for doctors to access in the early stages. There are no specific laboratory tests to make a definitive diagnosis. However, MRI’s are being used more successfully to arrive at a diagnosis. While there is not a cure, there are medications that can help most people live a productive life, and new medications and findings are on the horizon providing hope.