A kink in the head

Multiple Sclerosis does rob an afflicted person of his normal lifestyle, but it needn’t be all that hopeless, with early diagnosis and timely treatment, assures Dr Puneet Agarwal   

 Multiple Sclerosis is a nervous system disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, by damaging the sheath that surrounds and protects the nerve and nerve cells. 

Unfortunately, young adults, especially in the age-group 20 to 30 years, are most vulnerable to the disease.

According to a recent research, Multiple Sclerosis prevalence rates in India have been revised from 1-3 cases in every lakh, to 3-5 cases per lakh! Therefore, it is important to raise awareness about Multiple Sclerosis, especially among the youngsters.

Multiple Sclerosis affects the brain and spinal cord, resulting in the loss of muscle control, vision, balance and sensation.

 The brain nerves and spinal cord are damaged by one’s own immune system. Thus, the condition is called an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord, two main components of the central nervous system, thereby attacking the whole functioning of the body. 

The definite cause of Multiple Sclerosis is unknown, and research states that it is a combination of genetics, environmental factors, and possibly even a virus, to which the person was exposed to early in life. However,  several factors  are known to determine whether a person is at a risk of developing the disease or not, including family history and immune system disorders triggered by certain viruses. 

 The common symptoms of the disease are visual disturbances, weakness in the limbs, unsteadiness in walking, loss of sensation in one part of the body, muscle spasms, fatigue, numbness or pins-and-needles sensation.

Nearly 50 percent of the patients suffering from this disease complain of mental changes, including decreased concentration, memory loss, attention deficit disorder, manic depression and paranoia. In rare cases, a patient may have fits and chronic headaches as well. 

Unfortunately, as of today, there is no definite cure for Multiple Sclerosis, but certain disease-modifying drugs are available, which can help ease the attacks and slow the progression of the disease, provided it is diagnosed in the early stages. 

Despite the challenges this disease poses, it is possible to control its symptoms and improve the quality of life. 

Honour your feelings

True, if you’ve just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, you would undergo a roller-coater ride of emotions.

 Just let your feelings flow; don’t bottle up anything. Speak to friends and family about it. Try and connect with someone who has been dignosed with the same disease. You might be able to help each other out just by talking.

Once you’ve come to terms with your condition, you will be able to take control of your life again.

Be disciplined

Managing any disease or disorder has mostly got to do with discipline. Take your medicines right on time, and stick to your daily schedule, as usual.

 So, maintain a stringent and well-balanced diet, never skip meals, and stick to a specific meal time. Maintain a regular sleeping pattern, and make sure you have your dinner two hours before hitting the sack.

Stay active

Sure, you might have to slow down a little, thanks to your diagnosis, but that doesn’t mean life has to come to a standstill. It just means that instead of running, you might have to jog, or something to that effect. If you were sedentary before the diagnosis, then, you have every reason to buck up and start exercising.

Just consult your doctor to figure out what kind of workout might be most suitable for you. 
(The writer is a senior neurologist and head of unit, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi)

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