The central nervous system in our body is responsible for collecting and coordinating various activities in our body. A protective layer called the myelin sheath, made up of protein and fatty substances, covers the nerve cells in the central nervous system. When the myelin sheath is damaged, it results in multiple sclerosis. Myelin sheath, also called as the white matter tissue, consists of nerve fiber cells, which transmits communication signals to various nerve cells. When a virus or any foreign agent alters the immune system, the immune system assumes the myelin sheath as an intruder, and attacks it. This results in Multiple Sclerosis.
When the myelin sheath is attacked, the strength of the electrical impulses weaken. Sometimes, the nerves themselves are damaged. As a result, the functions that are controlled by the central nervous system such as speech, vision, memory and stability while walking, are affected. Once the myelin sheath is attacked, lesions or plaques appear at random areas on the myelin sheath.
The symptoms vary depending on how badly the myelin sheath is damaged. As the nerve damage in one region of myelin sheath manifests different symptoms than the damage to another region, the symptoms vary widely. People affected by multiple sclerosis do not lose all functions at once, but they gradually develop signs depending on the severity of the damage.
1. Cognitive dysfunction
People suffering from multiple sclerosis, may have poor memory as both their short-term and long-term memory gets affected. They tend to forget quickly about the events that occurred in their recent past. This results in poor recollection of past events. They also experience mood swings, euphoria and emotional instability. In some cases, signs of dementia, Aphasia, Dysphasia and depression are seen. However, their ability to learn new concepts is not affected.
In some cases, they experience difficulty in speech, thus hampering fluent communication, but they may not have difficulty in comprehending speech. This condition occurs because they cannot recollect words quickly.The signs may not be the same for two persons affected by the condition. The signs differ based on the area in the myelin sheath that is attacked. The common signs also include forgetting details about some simple day-to-day activities like forgetting to lock doors, leaving keys in the vehicle, forgetting about medicines. They mainly lose their ability to plan things and start to write down everything. They also exhibit difficulty in processing information.
2. Trouble in balancing and coordinating movements
People who have multiple sclerosis experience frequent dizziness or light-headedness. This happens when their brain loses the ability to establish necessary equilibrium. Sometimes, they feel dizziness while walking, as if they have drunk.They may have difficulty in controlling their movements. This occurs when the brain has difficulty in coordinating movements of their body parts.
If you see anyone falling off while climbing stairs or losing balance without any external disturbances, then it is a clear indication that the part of the brain that processes the balance of motion is affected. If their hands shake frequently while performing normal activities, then it shows the inability of their nerve cells to send signals effectively. They may also experience extreme difficulty in performing rhythmic task like rapidly alternating movements. In the middle of such long alternating movements, they may lose their concentration and balance.
3. Sensory symptoms
People who have multiple sclerosis may feel partial numbness in certain parts of their body.This depends on the severity of the damage in the myelin sheath. Sometimes, they feel abnormal sensations like tingling, pricking, buzzing, burning, and skin crawling. These kind of abnormal sensations are common signs that have occurred in 70% of the people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Depending on the type of damage, they may feel relief from numbness when their nerves are released. In some cases, they may feel complete numbness or loss of sensation in a particular part of the body. Apart from this, they may also feel pain in certain body parts or shock in their head which they experience without any external agents. In severe cases, the signs may include loss of awareness about the location of certain body parts. Facial pain is also a sign of myelin sheath damage, but a person can get facial pain even in the case of sinus.
4. Vision problem
Double vision and blurred vision are the common signs of multiple sclerosis. This should go away in a short time. When there is a lesion in the brain-stem cells, the nerves serving the eyes are affected. Poor nerve signals to eyes can result in blurred vision, jerky eye movements, lack of coordination between eye movements or they could experience flashing lights when moving eyes.
Multiple sclerosis is not easily diagnosed and occurs without much warning, because the damage in myelin sheath does not disrupt all functions of a body at once. The relapse is unpredictable too, and occurs without much indications or warnings. Depending on the damage caused to the myelin sheath, the relapse could occur at any time. Viral infections and stress can also trigger relapse.