While the symptoms of multiple sclerosis appear in the body, it is a disease of the nervous system.
The father of neurology Jean-Martin Charcot wrote, “Symptoms then, are in reality, nothing but the cry from suffering organs.” In multiple sclerosis, the disease Charcot is credited with first diagnosing, symptoms are a cry from deteriorating nerves.
The following are 10 insights into this debilitating disease.
While the symptoms of MS have been described since the 14th century, it was in 1868 that Charcot became the first person to make correlations between the clinical features of MS and pathological changes discovered during autopsy.
In essence, Charcot was the first to distinguish MS as a distinct disease.(5)
2) Defining Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the myelin sheaths of nerves in the brain and spinal cord. The process is called demyelination.(3)
Demyelination damages nerves, preventing them from sending proper signals between the body and brain. Disrupted nerve signals are what cause the symptoms of MS.(1)
3) Cause Still Unknown
Scientists speculate that a genetic predisposition to MS, combined with environmental factors, is at the root of the disease.(1) However, MS is not directly inherited.
Caucasian women are more likely to be diagnosed with MS than Latina or African American women. MS is less common among Asians.
5) Geographic Risk
People living in northern latitudes have a higher risk of developing MS — the further north of the equator, the greater the incidence of MS. It is more common in areas populated by northern Europeans.
Visit this world map on the prevalence of multiple sclerosis.
6) The Most Common First Symptom
The first symptom of MS presents as vision problems 50 percent of the time. But MS is not a disease of the eyes but of the brain.