How MS Brain Lesions Are Formed
It is believed that an inflammatory process, possibly provoked by an infection or another insult to the body, is the precipitating process which leads to MS. A complex immune response to the threat ensues.
White blood cells that typically protect the body damage the nerve cells. The normally protective mechanism that guards the central nervous system from injury does not function correctly. As a result, the nervous system is damaged.
The cells that make up the myelin sheath are impaired, and plaques develop where the myelin sheath is weak or absent. The plaques form in diverse regions of the central nervous system. Scarring and nerve injury occurs.
The Effects of Nerve Damage
When MS is in its early stages, the myelin sheaths are damaged, but the axons of the neurons are not immediately injured. Numbness, weakness or other transient symptoms may occur.
However, the symptoms often come and go as the neuroglial cells regenerate and heal. Periods of disease remission occur.
As the illness worsens, the myelin sheath no longer regenerates. Scar tissue, lesions, develop in the place of the myelin sheath. The unprotected neurons become permanently damaged. Messages between nerves and tissues of the body slow and may become completely disrupted. Permanent symptoms and loss of function may result.
The process is intensified if there are multiple lesions in many parts of the nervous system. The intensity of the disease and the rapidity of its progress varies greatly between different people with MS.
Lesions may be visible with an MRI. Plaques may be forming even when the illness appears to be in remission. Research has shown that five to 10 new brain lesions form for everyone that cause symptoms. Symptoms occur due to damage within the brain, spinal cord or optic nerves.
Preventing and Limiting Plaque Formation
Newer medications have been developed in recent decades that reduce plaque formation. The positive effects of these medications have been shown on MRIs as well as by patient’s reductions in symptoms and the slowing of disease progression.
Specialized diets low in animal protein and fats are hailed by some sufferers as effective.
Many people use omega-3 fatty acid supplements as an aid to protect against inflammation and plaque formation. Some studies indicate that plant-based omega-3 rich oils provide protective benefits. These include flax, borage, and evening primrose seed oils.
More studies support the use of fish oil. Fish oil containing a total of 1.8 grams of EPA and 1 gram of DHA taken in divided doses each day is recommended.
The use of sunflower and olive oils may be beneficial as some studies have indicated that including these omega-6 fatty acid rich oils reduces symptoms. Evening primrose oil is another source of omega-6 fatty acids; however, it is expensive. The volume of evening primrose oil needed to obtain results is very costly.
The herb, Gingko Biloba may help to protect nerves from damage. It also preserves mental functioning. 40 to 80 mg of gingko which has been standardized to contain 24 percent gingko flavonol glycosides and 6% terpene lactones is recommended by leading naturopathic physicians.
If you have MS, check with your healthcare provider as new information and treatments are becoming available to prevent the formation of lesions and disease progression.
What Is the Prognosis of MS?
The prognosis of people with MS has increased considerably over the past 25 years. According to the National MS Society, people with MS can expect to live approximately seven years fewer than people who do not suffer from MS. However, they typically pass away from complications of their disease rather than as a direct result of their disease. For example, she may die from cardiovascular disease. It is rare that someone has MS that progresses so rapidly that it is fatal.
That being said – the progression of MS is highly variable, meaning that it affects each person differently. One person may progress much more rapidly through their disease state than another person.
Other factors affect life expectancy to consider. Having a family history of MS, smoking cigarettes, and lacking vitamin D exposure all can make MS progress more rapidly. People who have progressive forms of MS also tend to progress more quickly than those with relapsing-remitting MS, as do African Americans with MS.
So, what has improved the life expectancy over the past 20 to 25 years? Well, there have been two large factors that contribute to the improved life expectancy – better availability of treatments, and people making lifestyle changes.
There are now more disease-modifying therapies on the market, meaning that people with MS have options when it comes to their treatment. If one medication does not work, there is more than likely another one that will.
Also, there has been plenty of research that indicates that reducing certain habits, like smoking cessation and drinking less alcohol, and getting exercise and more sleep, can curtail some symptoms, even though these habits are not curative.