Multiple Sclerosis and Your Memory
Multiple sclerosis (MS) takes pieces of you. The more pieces it takes, the less of you is left. There will be less of you to play with your kids and less of you to perform well at work. One important piece taken by MS is your memory.
While most MS patients’ long term memory is left unaffected, short term memory can take a big hit. Remembering things like names, appointments, where you put something, or how to get somewhere can become difficult.
Your short-term memory serves as your connection to the world around you. Staying engaged with the people, places and things that you enjoy depends on your memory; without it, you are left disassociated from your environment.
The Role of Myelin
The pieces MS takes are both figurative and literal. MS causes your body’s immune system to attack nerves located in the brain, spine and eyes. During the attack, a coating called myelin is ripped away from the part of the nerve that sends signals to other nerves. Once the myelin is gone, it is replaced by scar tissue.
Think of myelin as the plastic coating around an electrical wire. The coating keeps the electricity stable and directed correctly. Without the myelin, the signals sent throughout your nervous system can be interrupted or miscommunicated. This is why people with MS tend to have a mix of symptoms and impairments, including things like numbness and tingling, and difficulty walking.
The types of impairments created by demyelination (the act of losing the myelin insulation) depend on what nerves are damaged in the process. If you are having vision issues, then your optic nerve is likely targeted. If you are having speech problems, MS is attacking language centers located in the left hemisphere of your brain.
Some symptoms are permanent as the scar tissue is irreversible, while other symptoms will improve as inflammation in certain areas lessens.
If the areas of your brain responsible for short term memory have been compromised, you’ll likely experience trouble with your memory. Other common cognitive issues associated with MS include having trouble focusing, processing new information, planning and prioritizing and remembering words.