If you feel numbness, weakness, dizziness, blurred vision or tingling for more than 24 hours, you must see a doctor. These are early signs of multiple sclerosis (MS) – a disabling disease affecting the nervous system with potential to leave you in a wheelchair and lower life expectancy.
On the occasion of World MS Day (May 30), a top medical expert told Khaleej Times that scientists are trying to find a possible cure and cause of the disease, affecting nearly 2.5 million worldwide.
Dr Ahmed Shatila, consultant adult neurologist at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Shakbout Medical City – a joint venture between SEHA and Mayo Clinic, said that MS is an autoimmune disease, i.e., a body’s immune system mistakenly starts attacking its own nervous system.
“The immune system sees your body as a foreign object and attacks the myelin that ‘insulates’ the nerves in your brain,” he said during an interview.
Dr Shatila said that no two people will have the same disease course and range from mild to severe, which makes it hard to diagnose and prognosticate. Depending on which area of the brain gets attacked, people may experience partial or full blindness, numbness in the limbs, difficulty in talking and remembering things, confusion, and pain in parts of the body.
The disease progresses in a different way in each person. If any person with fluctuating neurologic symptoms, i.e., which comes and goes, but lasts for more than 24 hours, it is suspicious. If you have numbness, tingling and weakness and it is not getting better then you need to see a doctor.”
After initial consultation and examination, a doctor will order an MRI of the brain or spinal cord and later a lumbar puncture test to diagnose MS.
Left untreated, the disease can leave a person wheelchair-bound and lower life expectancy by 7 to 15 years, while early treatment can help to manage symptoms.
“Treatment can change the outcome of the disease and improve the quality of life. There are 15 approved medications for MS and more being studied. In the past 10 years, we have had more than 10 new medications for MS.”
Dr Shatila noted that MS is more prevalent in northern latitude countries with a possible reason being less exposure in those areas to sunlight. However, the prevalence of the disease in the UAE is more than what was thought. MS mainly affects people in age groups of 20 to 40 years.
“MS affects a young population. It is the most common cause of non-traumatic neurological disability in young adults. It affects women two to three times more than men. So, don’t take this disease lightly. Early diagnosis is important,” Dr Shatila added.
Source: Khaleej Times