Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease affecting around 2.3 million people worldwide. Though the blood-brain barrier is typically impermeable, in MS patients T lymphocytes are able to cross over it to the brain. 1
These white blood cells of people diagnosed with MS attack the fatty myelin which covers the nerves in their brains. The lesions or bare patches from the loss of myelin are one of the first ways MS can be seen on a brain scan.
Most patients have the relapsing-remitting form of MS, which means they have periods of time when the disease is in retreat and they often have no symptoms.
About 10-15 percent of people with MS have the primary progressive form and have no periods without symptoms when the disease retreats.
The effects of multiple sclerosis are not easily discerned. The first indicators are usually subtle. Among the first signs of MS are feeling numbness in a limb that could cause you to drop a coffee cup, or a simple tingling down the spine.
There is no specific known cause of multiple sclerosis, though there are a series of factors that may play a role in who is at risk for this disease.
MS has a genetic component but it is not considered a disease that is highly inheritable.
People who smoke and who have contracted mononucleosis are at greater risk for being diagnosed with MS.
Various aspects of your environment, and dietary deficiencies like a lack of vitamin D, are thought to be contributing factors.
Vitamin D is naturally made in the body by exposure to the sun. It has been found that people living close to the equator, and therefore typically see more of the sun, have a lower risk factor for developing MS.
Currently there is no cure for multiple sclerosis. There are drugs that slow the eventual progression of the disease, but no medications have been created to reverse its ravages on the body.
However, recent research is promising.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco are trying to force cells in the body to create oligodendrocytes, to discover whether the oligodendrocytes will create myelin to replace what was destroyed on the nerve fibers.