Dr. Vlahovic testing patient for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis

What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and can be disabling throughout acute relapses and its progression. MS is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system begins attacking its own tissues, specifically myelin (the protective covering of nerve fibers) and causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. In time, the disease can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged. Signs and symptoms of MS vary from person to person due to the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are actually affected. Severity of effects range, and some patients may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms, while other can have more aggressive course with fast accumulation of lesion load. Currently there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, although there are 15 FDA approved medications that can modify disease course. They have been found through clinical trials to reduce the number of relapses, delay progression of disability, and limit new disease activity. CHI Health Neurological Institute specialists will work with patients on individualized treatment plans that can help with recovery from and management of symptoms.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

Multiple sclerosis signs and symptoms differ greatly from person to person. The progression of the disease and the location of nerves affected play a big part. Symptoms could include the following:

  • Numbness or weakness in one or more of the limbs; typically occurs on one side of the body at a time
  • Partial or complete loss of vision; usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement
  • Prolonged double vision
  • Tingling or pain in parts of the body
  • Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward
  • Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait
  • Muscle stiffness and cramps
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with bowel and bladder function

How is MS Diagnosed?

There is no single test that can diagnose MS. A patient’s medical history, neurologic exams and radiologic tests — such as MRIs of brain/spinal cord are the most important initial steps. Spinal Fluid analyses and additional lab tests are frequently done and help physicians rule out other diseases and confirm the MS diagnosis. 

What Happens After Diagnosis?

The CHI Health Neurological Institute multidisciplinary team offers highly trained experts that enable us to offer comprehensive MS care which begins with the diagnosis and lasts a lifetime. Our goal is to work with the patient to reduce disease activity, manage symptoms and maintain the highest quality of life. Managing MS is an ongoing process, beginning with the very first symptoms and continuing throughout the disease course. It’s never too soon or too late to think about how to access high quality, comprehensive, interdisciplinary care.