What is Multiple Sclerosis?
?טרשת נפוצה מהי
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system affecting the brain’s ability to send and receive messages.
It’s called “Multiple”
Because it damages more than one area of the brain and/or the spinal cord
It’s called “Sclerosis”
Because MS – as Multiple Sclerosis is commonly known – causes hardening of the tissue (the tissue becomes sclerotic)
– causes damage to myelin, the protective coating around nerve fibers]
Why do we need to learn about Multiple Sclerosis?
?מדוע צריך ללמוד על טרשת נפוצה
Because Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a common disease of the central nervous system.
About 3 million people around the world and about 5,000 people in Israel suffer from MS.
No MS cure has been found yet.
Multiple Sclerosis typically affects:
In most cases MS affects people aged 15 to 45.
As a result of powerful diagnostic methods today, children as young as 8-years old are being diagnosed with MS.
MS affects the whole family
The disease may have a strong impact on those closest to the person who has MS.
They may be required to share the financial burden, and take on other duties at home, while also helping the person who has MS cope with the disease emotionally.
The information in this brochure on how to cope with and treat the disease are not a substitute for a professional conversation between the patient and their physician.
How does Multiple Sclerosis affect the central nervous system?
?כיצד פוגעת הטרשת הנפוצה במערכת העצבים המרכזית
The brain functions like a telephone exchange
Most healthy nerves are insulated by myelin
Myelin is a fatty substance that helps messages smoothly flow without interruption along nerve fibers, known as neural pathways.
In MS, the myelin breaks down and is replaced by scar tissue.
Scar tissue may distort messages or even block them.
Control over the body’s movement is impaired because the messages don’t reach their destination correctly.
It sends electrical messages along nerve fibers to every part of the body.
These messages control all our voluntary and involuntary movement.
The cause of Multiple Sclerosis remains a mystery
But there are cases of MS in which the following occurs:
הגורם לטרשת נפוצה נותר עדיין בגדר תעלומה
The body’s immune system defends the body against invaders such as viruses and bacteria.
In people who have MS, this immune system may start attacking the body’s own cells – in this case the myelin sheath cells.
It’s not clear what triggers an immune response of this type.
An attack of viruses or bacteria
The cause of MS might be exposure to a common virus or bacteria.
There are cases of MS where two of the following exist:
An attack by a virus or bacteria triggers an immune system response.
A virus or bacteria takes over control of cells.
The body’s defense system makes a mistake and attacks both the attacker and the body’s own cells.
Some myths about Multiple Sclerosis
כמה מיתוסים על טרשת נפוצה
Myth: Multiple Sclerosis causes death.
Fact: The life expectancy of most people with MS is normal or nearly normal.
Myth: MS eventually ends in paralysis.
Fact: Most MS sufferers are able to move about on their own. However, some will need a walking stick, crutches, a wheelchair, or other type of mobility aid.
Myth: MS is a contagious disease.
Fact: There is no evidence that an MS sufferer can transmit the disease to another person through random or sexual touch.
Myth: There is no way of helping a person suffering from MS.
Fact: There are now drug treatments that slow down the MS process in some sufferers.
There are also medications that help alleviate many of the symptoms of the disease.
A change in diet can help improve how people feel.
Multiple Sclerosis symptoms differ from person to person and from time to time in the same person
תסמיני הטרשת הנפוצה שונים מאדם לאדם
Symptoms may be light or severe
They may include:
- Muscle stiffness or spasms (spasticity)
- Eye problems (vision loss, blurry or double vision, etc.)
- Weakness or extreme fatigue
- Shuffling (dragging of legs), a shaky or unstable walk
- Tremors or involuntary movements
- Poor coordination
- Loss of control over the bladder or bowel movements, or problems with sex
- Problems with memory, concentration or in the speed of problem solving skills
- Speech problems
- Partial or complete paralysis of some part of the body
The disease course of MS also varies:
There are two basic types of Multiple Sclerosis
- The isolated attack disease course
Here symptoms burst out and then become weaker or perhaps even disappear for months or years
- The progressive disease course
Here symptoms build up and become worse over time
There are cases in which the isolated attack type of MS turns into progressive or advanced MS
Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis may be difficult
Sometimes years may pass from the onset of the first symptoms and until a conclusive diagnosis is reached. This is because:
אבחון הטרשת הנפוצה עשוי להיות קשה
Early symptoms may be ignored
In many cases the early symptoms are light, so the person does not seek medical advice.
Symptoms may also appear and then disappear.
Other diseases are all too similar
Other diseases of the central nervous system may present with identical symptoms to those of MS.
There are certain mental health problems that can also manifest with symptoms similar to those of MS.
How the physician reaches a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis Based on the symptoms, the doctor may:
כיצד מגיע הרופא לאבחנה של טרשת נפוצה
Investigate the patient’s full medical history
This will help the physician get a comprehensive picture of the person’s state of health.
He or she will also ask about the symptoms and when they started.
Check the functioning of the nervous system
For this purpose, the doctor is likely to check the patient’s reflexes, balance, coordination, and vision, and look for areas of numbness.
The doctor will also order tests to assist in the diagnosis, which may include one or more of the following:
- An MRI scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), which gives detailed images of the brain and the spinal cord.
- A CT or Computerized Tomography scan, which uses X-ray waves to photograph the brain and the spinal cord.
- Evoked potential (EP) tests to measure the speed and accuracy of the central nervous system’s response to a given stimulus.
- A spinal tap, also known as a lumbar puncture, which checks for signs of the disease in the spinal fluid.
Two basic signs serve as confirmation of Multiple Sclerosis:
- Signs of the disease in different parts of the nervous system
- At least two separate outbreaks of the disease
Multiple Sclerosis is treatable
There is currently no way to cure MS.
But you can do many things to help maintain your independence, feel comfortable and continue working.
טרשת נפוצה ניתנת לטיפול
Treatment of MS should include:
Maintaining good health habits
It is extremely important that you take very good care of yourself and try to avoid infections and other diseases. Make sure you:
- Take regular physical exercise.
(You should consult with your doctor before starting a physical exercise program).
- Eat nutritious food. Your daily diet must include elements from each of the five food groups.
- Get enough sleep.
- Get immediate treatment for any infection.
There are many drugs for the treatment of MS and its symptoms.
Physical exercise programs can help you regain control over muscles after severe attacks.
Physiotherapy in a pool (hydrotherapy) can be especially conducive to MS patients.
This type of therapy can help you remain independent for as long as possible if you become disabled in some way.
Occupational therapists can, for example, teach you new ways to dress yourself, cook, drive, and so on.
They can also teach you how to use special equipment and make changes in your home, workplace or car, so you are safer and more comfortable.
This therapy is for MS patients who find it difficult to talk because of muscle weakness and a lack of coordination. Speech therapy with a communication clinician can help improve skills in communication.
Individual and group therapy can help MS sufferers and their families deal with depression, anxiety and the physical limitations caused by MS.
[Frequently Asked Questions / FAQs]
Some questions and answers
Who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
There are some people who may be more prone than others to develop MS. Among them are:
- People in the 18-40 age group
- People of northern European origin
- People who live in temperate climates (the closer you get to the Equator, the fewer the cases of MS)
Is MS hereditary?
Generally, it is not hereditary.
But it would seem that there are families who are more prone to MS than others.
Can MS affect the mind?
In some cases MS does affect the mind and emotions.
So, for example, people with MS may experience:
- Mood swings
If you feel any of these symptoms, consult your physician.
To what extent can symptoms worsen?
It is impossible to predict how symptoms will develop and worsen.
Each MS case runs a different course than any other.
There are people, for example, who reach a stage where they can no longer walk, whereas for others the disease manifests in light symptoms only, with no disability or with only minor disability.
What about my sex life?
Many people suffering from MS are able to enjoy a completely normal sex life. Others might encounter problems of some sort.
Mainly, it’s important to maintain open communication and flexibility when it comes to sexual expression.
Will I be able to have children?
Yes, except in cases where severe disability causes a problem. You should consult with your physician.
Is there any chance that the symptoms will disappear, never to return?
Probably not, but no one can say for sure how MS will develop in a particular person.
There are many sources for support and information
for people with MS and their families, such as:
קיימים מקורות רבים לסיוע ומידע
The family physician
As the course of MS is unpredictable, it is essential to undergo regular medical check-ups.
Group members share with each other what they’re going through and in this way help each other cope with MS.
Ask The Israel Multiple Sclerosis Society about MS support groups that meet in your area.
Neurological clinics at Health Fund hospitals and the Multiple Sclerosis Society
These entities can provide information on MS and updates on new treatment methods.
The Israel Multiple Sclerosis Society is an excellent source of information.
You can reach The Israel Multiple Sclerosis Society by:
Facebook: Friends of The Israel Multiple Sclerosis Society
MS may be an unpredictable disease,
but a positive outlook
can radically change the situation!
- Learn all you can:
about Multiple Sclerosis
- Contact your family doctor
if MS symptoms appear
- Take good care of your health
good health can greatly enhance how you feel
Anyone can help people who have Multiple Sclerosis by supporting research, volunteering activities, and The Israel Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Together we can work to find a cure.