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 Emergency & First Aid

June 2010
Multiple Sclerosis
Dr. Rebecca Varghese
Are you between 20 and 40 years of age? Maybe you should know more this disease you could be at risk of . More than 20 lakhs people around the world have multiple sclersis.

What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease of the nervous system in which communication between the brain and other parts of the body is disrupted.
  • It is an incurable, chronic, progressive disease of the central nervous system, where the simplest of everyday tasks cannot be taken for granted. The effects can range from benign to devastating. It is often disabling.
  • The symptoms could appear and disappear mysteriously in the ‘relapsing-remitting type’ or MS could progressively worsen in the ‘progressive type’.
  • In the worst cases, a person with MS may be unable to write, speak or walk.
  • It is also believed to be an autoimmune disorder in which the body fails to recognize its own cells and attacks them as foreign ones.
  • Since this crippling disease starts in young adulthood and is not a killer, the patient lives a normal span of life but slowly becomes more and more disabled and may ultimately become bedridden. In some cases, the disease could remain very benign too.
Death & Destruction
MS is characterised by a triad of inflammation, scarring and demyelination. Demyelination is the destruction of myelin, the fatty covering that insulates nerve cell fibres in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin allows for the smooth, high-speed transmission of electrochemical messages between the brain, the spinal cord and the rest of the body. When myelin is damaged, neurological transmission of messages may be slowed or blocked completely, resulting in diminished or lost function.

Are You at Risk?
The cause of MS is unknown; theories include a childhood virus attack! Initially, it was thought that MS was rare in India but it is not so. Now with modern diagnostic methods like MRI, more MS cases are being diagnosed. According to neurologists, there are around 40,000 to 50,000 estimated cases of MS all over India.

5 risk factors :
  • Having first degree relatives with MS
  • Age between 20 and 40 years
  • Living in temperate climates
  • Immune response genes
  • Environmental factors

Treatment Plan
  • If you or someone you care for is experiencing symptoms suggestive of MS, you should see your healthcare provider immediately. Your doctor will take a history of clinical symptoms and check for neurological problems.
  • You will also be referred for lab tests such as a computed tomography scan (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and maybe a cerebrospinal fluid exam and agar gel electrophoresis.
  • The primary goal of the treatment plan is to return to normal functioning after an attack, reduce the number of attacks and to prevent disability and preserve functionality.
Get Help
Persons with MS sometimes think of themselves as ticking time bombs because they never know when the next attack will strike. Most deaths are actually due to suicide, driven by depression! The family sometimes needs more support than the patient.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of India (MSSI) is a charitable, non-profit organisation affiliated to the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation. They provide a place for the multiple sclerosis persons to meet, share stories and new ideas. Actor Milind Soman, brand ambassador for the cause, urges people to help in whatever ways they can, “Most people don't know how simple it is to help, mostly by doing things that they are really good at and probably do all the time anyway.” To know how you can help, write to
Dr. Rebecca Varghese is Consultant – Emergency Medicine at Apollo Health City, Hyderabad

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