There are many faces to Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Each person, with their own unique story chronicling the daily challenges of living with the disease. MS by definition is a progressive disease of the central nervous system. It is one of the most common neurological disorders and causes of disability in young adults. Multiple Sclerosis causes white blood cells to attack the outer sheath, or myelin, of the nerve fibers causing a disruption in the signals coming from the brain to the body. This disruption in the signal can lead to varying degree of neurological symptoms. It is most commonly diagnosed between 20 and 50 years of age and is two to three times more common in women than in men. While the exact cause of the disease is not known, it is speculated that it is caused by a virus though it is not contagious. It is estimated that over 400,000 people in the US are diagnosed with around 7,500 Hoosiers included in that number.
In a recent interview with Dr. Janicki a recognized MS specialist practicing in Carmel Indiana, commented that there has been an increase in diagnosis over the past few years but that could be a result of increased awareness and earlier detection rather than an increase in the spread of the disease. Though there is little known about the cause of MS, there are factors that can increase your risk such as genetic make-up and family history. Researchers theorize that if the cause is indeed viral, the virus could lay dormant in the body but nor manifest symptoms until later on in life. It is most common for symptoms to present when someone is in their early 20’s and 30’s. Many of the patients that Dr. Janicki sees for the first time are coming in a result of an unexplained loss of vision. The most accurate way to diagnose the disease is through a MRI scan. The scans reveal the presence of brain lesions which are the tell take sign.
Early diagnosis is key and leads to the best prognosis for the patient according to Dr. Janicki. After that diagnosis though, what comes next? I can be scary not only for the patient but for their family as well. There are so many unknowns and there is no “common pathway of progression. It all depends on your health when you were diagnosed, family history, lifestyle, type of MS you have and how you respond to treatment. Generally MS is characterized by period “attacks” or relapse followed by periods of remission. Some describe an attack as being like a stroke where they lose some function or feeling on one side of their body for a while or maybe lose some of their vision. Things like temperature swings, stress and lifestyle and exacerbate symptoms. One can recover from an attack slowly but are not always back to where they were before. This of course is all determined by the type of MS, how symptoms are managed and response to treatment.
There are many more treatment options than there were even 10 years ago. Most commonly treatments are either oral or intravenous. And there is more and more research being done every day bringing us better options for treatment and better protocols. Dr. Janicki advocates strongly for patients who are diagnosed with MS to seek resources in the community and support from their friends and family. One Day for Every Day is a perfect event to get connected with local and national resources for patients and family members touch by this disease. On Saturday, May 10th from 10am to 2pm, “people with MS and their care partners can find information about the disease, connect with the larger MS community, and check out local organizations, companies and support groups in the area that provide special services to people living with MS.” Dr. Janicki will be speaking at the event helping the public understand the effect of MS on the physical body. Registration for this event is free and will be held at the Renaissance Indianapolis North Hotel in Carmel.
There is no way to prevent MS and there is now cure but there is always a story to be told. Stories of triumph over adversity and the power of healing. In the face of something like this all we can do is do what we do for everything else, live our best life, take care of our bodies the best we can, find the good in everyday and the beauty in everything. And if we ever have to face this challenger personally always seek the partnership of a doctor you trust, support from those around you, treat your body with kindness and see the good in everything.