Muscular sclerosis or multiple sclerosis is regarded as an autoimmune disease, where the central nervous system (CNS), i.e. the brain, spinal cord and nerves are attacked by the body's own immune system. This autoimmune disease mainly attacks and breaks down the myelin sheath, which is a fatty protein covering that surrounds the nerve fibers. Breakdown of this protective covering results in disruption of normal functions of the nerves, which becomes evident in the loss of muscle control as well as balance and coordination. Muscular sclerosis is a severe disease, which can gradually lead to physical and mental disability. Though many researches and studies have been conducted to find out exactly what causes muscular sclerosis and its cure, no major breakthrough has been achieved in this regard. Here is a brief discussion about the possible causes as well as the early symptoms of muscular sclerosis.
|Causes of Muscular Sclerosis|
As has been mentioned already, no specific cause of muscular sclerosis has been discovered so far, though it is mainly considered an autoimmune disease. Researchers have been able to find out some immune factor and the immune cells responsible for attacking the nervous system, but the reason behind such autoimmune response is not known. Deficiency of vitamin D is another suspected cause of muscular sclerosis. This vitamin is synthesized by our skin on exposure to sun, especially the ultraviolet radiation of sunlight. A higher prevalence of muscular sclerosis has been observed in those parts of the world, which are situated far from the equatorial region and hence receive a low amount of sunlight. This is the reason that the deficiency of vitamin D is considered a possible cause of this disease.
Even a genetic link has not been ruled out, as it is often observed that people having a direct relative with muscular sclerosis are more likely to suffer from this disease. However, this disease is not considered a hereditary disease, rather it has been pointed out that some individuals may be born with a genetic predisposition, which makes them vulnerable to muscular sclerosis. Exposure to virus and bacteria can also cause inflammation of the myelin sheath and hence studies are in progress to find out the particular types of virus and bacteria that may have an association with the disease. Other risk factors include smoking, stress and exposure to some toxic substances.
|Identifying Early Signs and Symptoms|
The symptoms of muscular sclerosis can occur in acute and brief periods of attacks followed by recovery periods in some people, while in others, symptoms can continuously worsen and deteriorate the condition. Such slow progression results in gradual impairment of neurological functions. As the disease attacks the central nervous system, it directly affects the motor, sensory and visual functions of the body.
- The early symptoms are generally associated with the disruption of motor skills. Muscle weakness, muscle spasms, fatigue, slurred speech, difficulty in coordination and balance are some other early indications of muscular sclerosis. Gradually, physical disabilities like inability to walk properly can develop. With the nerve pathways to the brain slowly getting damaged, patients lose their sense of balance and complain of vertigo often.
- Tremors can also be an indication. It can be draining on the individual and unfortunately, cannot be treated easily.
- Sensory symptoms like numbness and a tingling sensation in the arms, legs and feet, especially during the night, are also common in the early stage of the disease.
- Visual problems like double vision and involuntary movement of the eyes are some other common symptoms. Optical neuritis, which is caused due to the deterioration of the myelin sheath protecting the optic nerve, can cause partial or total blindness in the affected eye, and is a very common early symptom of muscular sclerosis.
- This disease can affect the cognitive abilities of an individual, and many times becomes a cause of depression and mood swings.
- Muscular sclerosis can make people more sensitive to heat. They cannot tolerate excess and prolonged exposure to heat, and a heightened sensitivity can aggravate the symptoms of the disease.
- Though rare, aphasia, psychosis and epilepsy have been reported in some individuals in the early stage.
- Individuals can also experience various problems related to the bowel and bladder.
- In the later stage, dementia and confusion may follow the disease. Another severe condition that can arise in the later stage of the disease is paralysis.