More Common Than Not ~ by Grace Augustine

Actress, Teri Garr
Actress, Jamie-Lynn Sigler
Stock Car Driver, Trevor Bayne
News Anchor, Neil Cavuto
Scottish Playwright, Roger MacDougall
Author, M.J. Hyland
Canadian Meteorologist, Janice Dean
Lawyer and Civil Right Leader, Barbara Jordan,  Actor, David L. Lander,  Country Music Artist, Clay Walker,  Actress, Annette Funicello,  Actor, Jack Osborne, Wife of Senator, Ann Romney,  Actress, Selma Blair, Author, Grace Augustine

     This list is just a beginning to the one million people who have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system.
     Multiple Sclerosis shows no favoritism. It doesn't care that you are rich or poor, it doesn't care that you are famous or a regular Joe/Jane, it doesn't care about your social status. It attacks when least expected, sometimes with barely noticeable repeating symptoms, sometimes with symptoms that send you to the emergency room.
     March is National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month and today is the beginning of National Multiple Sclerosis Week--March 10th-16th.  In this first of two posts this month, I want to address the clinical aspect of this disease with hopes that it will bring understanding to those who know little about it or who confuse it with Muscular Dystrophy.
     Multiple Sclerosis...the name means "many lesions." I see you scratching your head and wondering what I mean when I say lesions. To explain that, I must explain what MS, Multiple Sclerosis, does to the central nervous system.
     Our bodies are equipped with a computer...our brain. From our brain stems our spinal cord and our Central Nervous System (CNS) Within that spinal cord is a colorless liquid that surrounds our brains and our nervous system and protects it. The fluid feeds nutrients to our brain and spine and also removes waste as well as protects our brain against injury.
     From our spinal cord millions of nerves stretch throughout our bodies. The nerves are covered by myelin, another protective mechanism. Think of your nerves as a copper wire with a plastic coating (myelin) that may help you visualize my next statement.
     In people who have been diagnosed with MS, their bodies produce rogue T-Cells and B-Cells...cells that are instrumental in controlling inflammation. These rogue cells attack the myelin...the plastic coating on the nerves...seeing it as a foreign matter that it needs to rid from the body. As these cells eat away this protective covering, nerves are exposed, and instructions from the brain to these nerves are interrupted. The nerves now have lesions on them. These lesions are located on the spinal cord and in both the white and gray matter of the brain.
     Because of the nerve damage done by these rogue cells, many things go wrong. Eyesight is affected, or it may be speech, or it may be a numbness and tingling in extremities. It could be cognitive, it could be a number of things that prevent our bodies from working properly. The biggest thing is fatigue.
     Well, can't you rest? You ask.  MS fatigue is different than what the normal person experiences. It is a brutal, all encompassing weariness that prevents you from moving. You have zero energy, you cannot think, you have fog brain, and so much more.
     What can be done to treat the lesions?  At this point, not much. It is all speculative and all preventive. The disease modifying drugs that are available are many, but physicians still have no clue when or if they do anything to curb the progression of MS.
     What is the process for confirming an MS diagnosis?
     1. See your physician and discuss frankly all of your symptoms, regardless of how minor you think they may be. It will give a better picture of what is happening in your body. You will then be sent to a neurologist, a specialist dealing with the Central Nervous System and diseases that affect it.
     2.  Your neurologist will order an MRI with contrast to determine if and where lesions are located on your spinal cord and brain.
      3.  Some neurologists may order a lumbar puncture--a procedure that removes spinal fluid from the spinal cord to check for Oligoclonal Banding. Following the procedure, you will need to lay flat for a few hours until the fluid returns to normal pressure.
     4.  After all of the testing has been completed, you will meet with your neurologist for the results and a plan for care will be discussed.  Several options will be discussed and it will all depend on how the MS presents itself in your body.
     The one thing I want to impress upon you, if you are reading this and either have been diagnosed or suspect you may have MS...you are not alone. Do not be afraid to ask for help. I am more than happy to visit with any who need an ear.
     For me, I was diagnosed in 2003 at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota by five different neurologists who each examined me then collectively met to compare their findings.
     I wrote a book, So You have MS. Now What? about my personal journey with MS. It contains a lot of practical and clinical information. You can find out more about it on my member page by clicking HERE.
    In my next post, I will address what YOU can do to help find a cure to this autoimmune disease.
    




6 comments:

  1. I was never aware just how many people are inflicted with this terrible disease until you and my other friends suffer from it. I hope there will soon be a cure.

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    1. Statistics now say over 1 million in the US alone are afflicted with it. That is why I walk, or try to walk, the Walk MS event to raise awareness and funding for research.

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  2. You amaze me, Grace, with how well you deal with this disease. Your optimism and compassion are truly something special, as are you, my friend. Love you <3

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    1. Thank you so much, Kristine. I may have MS, but it doesn't have me! <3

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  3. You are a strong woman, Grace, to go through all you do and still manage to be creative.

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