Can you imagine having a disease where no two people have the same experience or symptoms? What about a disease that the only way to be diagnosed is to go through a process of elimination? Or a disease where there is no definite cure? Multiple Sclerosis, which is commonly referred to as MS, is just this disease.
So what about Multiple Sclerosis? MS is a disease that attacks the central nervous system and affects everyone differently. MS is very complex and consists of many layers. Scientifically speaking, myelin is a fatty substance surrounding nerve fibers for the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Sclerosis is formed from scar tissue formed on the damaged myelin. This creates nerve impulses going to and from the brain and spinal cord that will be interrupted, which causes MS symptoms. Such symptoms include dizziness, loss of balance, blurred vision, as well as numbness in limbs.
However there are four different types of severity within MS. The four types are:
1) Relapsing-remitting – People that suffer from this type experience neurologic functioning attacks that have a recovery period afterward.
2) Primary-progressive- This type of MS is a slow process of worsening neurologic function.
3) Secondary-progressive- This type of MS experiences start with relapsing-remitting MS and then symptoms increasingly worsen.
4) Progressive-relapsing- This is the most severe type of MS and worsens from the beginning with clear attacks of neurologic function.
Scientists and doctors are able to understand what MS is and how it affects the body; However, the unsettling part of the disease is that researchers and doctors still don’t have all the answers. They are still working to understand exactly what causes MS and if and what cures would be available.
First, what causes MS? There are assumptions but not yet a clear answer. The first assumption is that the disease is immunologic, which is an abnormal reaction of the immune system that attacks myelin. Interestingly, there have also been environmental factors that could be the cause to some types of MS. Another assumption is that MS could be infectious, meaning that other diseases which occur during childhood could trigger the development of MS. Whatever the cause may be, it is believed that Multiple Sclerosis is not hereditary, meaning that the disease does not run through generations of a family. Nonetheless, the risk of MS could be higher for immediate family members because of their genes. Doctors have noted preventive measures that could be taken as a child to lessen the chance of developing MS.
MS is such a depressing disease because there still is not a definite cure. People that suffer from less severe types of MS have access to medications, steroids and rehabilitation that help to deal with MS and symptoms stemming from the disease. Most of these medications are used to slow the progress of MS and prevent symptoms from happening.
Even though MS is different for everyone, there is a way to unite and give support. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society provides support, help, and comfort to those affected and to those who want to help and make a difference. The society hosts a plethora of community outreach events including the MS walk, where teams unite and collect donations. The society holds these walks all over the country for people to participate and donate money towards the cause. On April 10th there will be an MS walk at the Ag center in downtown Westminster. Participants can pre-register at www.walkms.com or can register on the day of the event. Registration is at the Ag center at 9 a.m. and then the walk begins at 10 a.m. The walk is a mile long, weaving a scenic route through downtown Westminster. After the walk, participants will hear from a community member affected by MS and then will be invited to enjoy a catered lunch sponsored by local restaurants.
Many organizations on McDaniel campus create a team to participate in the walk. One team in particular, the interest group of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority (previously Alpha Nu Omega) has come together and have participated in the walk for the past couple years. The group decided to show support to the MS society after one of the sisters’, Sarah Maize’s mother was diagnosed with the disease. We all love to show our support to raise awareness and donate to help find a cure. The event is open to the public, so feel free to bring your friends and family and support the cause!