- What exactly is the Worst Form of Multiple Sclerosis?
- What happens when you are diagnosed with it?
- When do you get it?
- How will my doctor know I have it?
These are very good question when it you know nothing or very little about Multiple Sclerosis. Many people with MS are clearly afraid when they are first diagnosed with this disease. This can be especially true if they’ve known someone who has had a difficult course of MS.
Because multiple sclerosis is the leading cause of disability in active young adults, it is thought to be a particularly traumatizing illness. Many people don’t even know what it is or what happens to you when you get it. MS has often been mistaken for one of the illnesses “Jerry’s kids” suffers from. Here is a short explanation of what it is.
A Quick Explanation
Multiple sclerosis is, in short, a disease of the CNS or central nervous system. The nerves that go to and from the brain short circuit after becoming damaged as a result of inflammation. Because of this damage, your body doesn’t receive the correct signals it needs to perform properly.
This nerve damage can cause false sensations, like burning or tingling in the arms and hands or legs and feet. It can cause numbness, or tightness around the chest. It can also cause you to lose your balance, slur your speech, or lose control of your bladder.
Four Main Types
The four main types of MS are Relapsing-Remitting (RRMS), Secondary-Progressive (SPMS), Progressive-Relapsing (PRMS), and Primary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS). The first is the most common and the last is the most rare form of MS.
Each type is characterized by a different pattern or course. In the first, RRMS, a person can have acute attacks of one or more symptoms. These attacks can last from a few days to weeks, followed by complete or partial recovery of all or some of the symptoms.
The second, SPMS, usually develops after having the first form of MS for a few years. It is characterized by a more consistent progression of symptoms resulting in more disability as time goes by.
The third form of MS, PRMS, shows more progressive disability from the very beginning. But because it is a relapsing form of the disease, you may have some recovery from the symptoms after the initial attack. More than likely, you will retain much of the disability brought on by the attack and continue to get worse over time.
The most rare form of MS, PPMS, is characterized by progression of disability from the very beginning. You would rarely have any improvements in any of the symptoms that develop from each attack. With each attack, you would get progressively worse. Fortunately, as I said earlier, this is a very rare form of MS.
Very Rare, Less Inflammation
PPMS only occurs in about 10% of people who develop multiple sclerosis. Most people, about 85%, who have MS, start out with a relapsing form of the disease. Symptoms come and go and can be few and far between. Over a period of about 10 years, the disease becomes more progressive.
Another characteristic of PPMS, is less inflammation in the brain and spinal cord as shown in MRI’s. The reason for this is that early in the course of this form of MS, there is more tissue damage and destruction. This is most likely the reason for the severe disability associated with Primary Progressive MS.
Lastly, this form of MS is more likely to be diagnosed later in a person’s life. MS usually develops in young adulthood, between the ages of 20 and 40. But it can occur earlier or later, into the 50’s. This is also extremely rare.
MS is Unpredictable
For anyone suffering from any type of multiple sclerosis, the outcome is almost always unpredictable. Doctors are very reluctant to give a prognosis of what will happen over the lifetime of someone with MS.
If you start out with Relapsing Remitting MS, you may stay that way or move on to develop Secondary Progressive MS after a period of about 10 or 15 years. If you haven’t gotten any worse in that time, you probably won’t.