Multiple Sclerosis is a degenerative, autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain and spinal column). It is generally progressive in nature, but the rate of physical disability is different for every individual's case. There are three general categories or types of MS patient: Relapsing/Remitting [R&R... the large majority of cases], Primary Progressive, and Chronic Progressive.
R & R means that there are periods of exacerbation (when the disease is active), followed by a period of remission. These periods of time vary from patient to patient, and the level of recovery is equally varied. Sometimes the physical disabilities effected by an exacerbation are completely, or nearly completely, restored- especially early on in the progression of the disease. However, the permanent loss of physical function is an eventual situation for all MS sufferers. Primary Progressive patients find their level of disability increasing with each exacerbation, with little recovery of the effects. Chronic Progressive patients have extreme and rapid loss of physical functions, and require significant care from others to accomplish normal daily activities.
The pathology of the disease is best explained like this: Think of your nervous system as the electrical systems of your home. The nerves are the wires that run from room to room. These wires consist of the actual copper filaments or wire, and the rubber coating that encases the actual wire. In the nervous system, this protective coating is call Myelin. For unknown reasons, the body's immune system turns on itself and destroys the myelin; thus MS is known as a demyelinization disease.
Once the myelin is destroyed, the raw never/wire is left exposed and vulnerable. This is expressed by the various physical symptoms experienced during an exacerbation. At this point, the immune system plays the right hand against the left and tried to "fix" the damage nerve by covering it up with a plaque substance. While this does reduce the symptoms of the exacerbation, it does not replace the function of the myelin, and causes the reduction or elimination of the nerves ability to transmit information to and from the brain. This results in the loss of physical function in the patient.
Common physical symptoms are: Numbness and Tingling of various parts of the body; Vision Impairment; Incontinence, Fatigue, Loss of Cognitive Abilities; Muscle Weakness/Loss of Strength, and Depression. Like snowflakes, no two MS patients are the same, and there can be any combination of these symptoms.
In my case, I am numb over 75-80% of my body, and most noticeable in my extremities (arms/hands, and legs/feet). It tends to be more pronounced on my right side, but parts of my left side have almost no feeling at all. (Which, on the bright side, is nice for the weekly injections I give myself.) Thus, I am limited in the amount of time I can walk or do physical types of labor or activity. Fatigue is a major issue. Sadly, this has affected my piano playing greatly, though I am still able to play (and do) for short durations.
The following links will give you opportunity to learn more about MS and how you can help in the ongoing and increasingly effective research for a cure. Thank you for taking the time to learn about MS, if you would like me to share more with you, please go to the Invite D. Allen Jenkins page and e-mail me. I would be happy to share more with you and your church or group.