What exactly is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)? For the answer I went to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website and looked up their definition.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The exact antigen — or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack — remains unknown, which is why MS is considered by many experts to be “immune-mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”
- Within the CNS, the immune system attacks myelin — the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers — as well as the nerve fibers themselves.
- The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name.
- When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms.
- The disease is thought to be triggered in a genetically susceptible individual by a combination of one or more environmental factors.
- People with MS typically experience one of four disease courses, which can be mild, moderate or severe.
So what does this mean to you and me?
To put it another way, your immune system attacks the lining on your nerves causing lesions and varying degrees of disability.
I think of it this way. There is a little boy with a sword attacking a bunch of wires that go from an on/off switch to a bunch of lights. He starts out cutting the plastic covering on the wires, causing the lights to begin malfunctioning.
This nasty little boy isn’t happy with the little bit of damage he has done. Hedecides to keep cutting those wires. With the plastic gone he realizes he can do some major damage. He cuts into one of the wires itself causing several of the lights to flicker. The next cut causes other lights to stay turned on even when the switch is turned off. These cuts are causing all kinds of problems and he is having a lot of fun!
You finally figure out which lights will work and which won’t. Then the boy makes another cut and the signals become crossed. You can no longer determine what any of the lights will do.
This goes on for years. The longer this goes on the more lights stop working or only occassionally working. Eventually almost all the lights have some damage.