Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a slowly progressive, inflammatory disease of the central nervous system.

Overview

Multiple sclerosis is a slowly progressive, inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. Intermittent attacks destroy the myelin sheath, i.e. the layer which surrounds the nerve fibres, causing multiple neurological symptoms. Early symptoms include vision problems and sensory disturbances. There are no known preventive measures.

Symptoms

  • A relapsing-remitting, slow progression of the disease is typical
  • Attacks vary considerably in character (duration, severity, dynamics, etc.)
  • The disease can go into remission, but it can also be chronic

Common first symptoms

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Vision problems
    • Reduced eyesight, impaired colour vision
    • Central vision loss
    • Double vision, pain during eye movement
  • Sensory disturbances
    • Diminished sensitivity
    • Tingling, burning
    • Temperature sensitivity

Other symptoms

  • Motor disturbances
    • Change in gait pattern
    • Clumsiness, stiffness
    • Spasticity, muscle cramps
  • Bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction
  • Pain
  • Psychological changes

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • The body's own immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin sheath) that covers the nerve fibres
    • Damage to nerve fibres caused by inflammation
    • So-called autoimmune disorder
  • The cause is generally not known
  • Theories regarding increased risk of contracting the disease:
    • Genetic susceptibility is suspected
    • Environmental factors (e.g. toxins)
    • Infection by specific viruses

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Neurological examination
  • Blood test
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of brain and spinal cord
  • Examination of cerebrospinal fluid (lumbar puncture)
Possible therapies
  • Pulse therapy (cortisone)
    • Fast symptom relief
  • Disease modification (immunotherapy)
    • Dampening and preventing autoimmune responses
  • Support and symptom control
    • Muscle-relaxing medication
    • Psychotherapy
    • Physiotherapy and occupational therapy

What can I do myself?

  • Regular coordination exercises and muscle training
    • Endurance sports such as swimming, cycling, horse riding, football and handball are very good
  • Continue living a normal life as long as possible
  • Psychological support during times of depression, also from self-help groups
  • Learn and apply relaxation techniques
  • Avoid being overweight
  • No preventive measures are known (including no diets)

When to see a doctor?

  • Vision problems
  • Sensory disturbances
  • Psychological symptoms

Further information

Swiss Multiple Sclerosis Society (Schweizerische Multiple Sklerose Gesellschaft)
www.multiplesklerose.ch

Selbsthilfe Schweiz (Self-Help Support Switzerland)
www.selbstilfeschweiz.ch

Synonyms

multiple sclerosis, MS, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, encephalomyelitis disseminata

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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