What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system, specifically the brain and spinal cord. In multiple sclerosis, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the protective covering of nerve fibers, called myelin, in the central nervous system. This immune-mediated damage disrupts the normal flow of electrical impulses along the nerves, leading to a wide range of neurological symptoms.
Causes of Multiple Sclerosis
The exact cause of multiple sclerosis is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Certain genes are thought to predispose individuals to develop the condition, and various environmental triggers, such as viral infections or low levels of vitamin D, may contribute to its onset.
About Dr. Barbara Giesser
Barbara S. Giesser, MD, FAAN, FANA, is an internationally recognized clinician and award-winning educator who has specialized in the care of persons with Multiple Sclerosis since 1982.
At the Brain Health Center at Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, CA, her approach to the diagnosis and management of people with MS combines state of the art diagnostics and a personalized medication plan for each patient with an emphasis on integrating lifestyle and wellness strategies into the neurologic treatment plan.
Conditions We Treat
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Clinically Isolated syndrome
- Neuromyelitis Optica
- Transverse myelitis
What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis is generally believed to be an autoimmune disease. Normally, the immune system, which is composed of different types of immune cells and proteins, recognizes an individual’s body as “Self’ and protects it from outside or “non-self” entities, such as germs.
The central nervous system or CNS ( brain, optic nerve, and spinal cord) usually does not allow most immune cells and proteins to enter. In MS, the immune system no longer recognizes parts of the central nervous system as “Self’ and gains the ability to get into the CNS and to attack the nerves.
What Causes MS?
The trigger that causes the immune system to attack the CNS is currently unknown. It is thought that MS develops in an individual as a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental influences.
These precise genes and environmental factors have yet to be conclusively identified.
MS Risk Factors:
- Adolescent obesity,
- Low Vitamin D levels in early life
- Having a close family member with MS
Who Gets MS?
MS is the second most common cause of neurologic disability in young persons and usually presents between ages 20-50. It affects women almost 3 times as often as men and is more common in Caucasians.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
What Are The Symptoms Of MS?
Because MS attacks multiple parts of the CNS, it can produce many different symptoms. The hallmark characteristic of multiple sclerosis is the presence of multiple areas of inflammation and scarring (sclerosis) in the central nervous system. These areas, known as lesions or plaques, can be detected through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Common MS symptoms include:
The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary widely and can affect different parts of the body. Common symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling
- Visual disturbances
- Muscle spasms
- Change in bladder, bowel or sexual dysfunction
- Problems with mood and memory and thinking
How is MS Treated?
There are two categories of treatment for persons with MS.
Disease Modifying Therapies (DMT)
DMT are medications that interfere with the immune system’s ability to attack the nerves.
They help prevent future areas of nerve damage, and slow disease progression. They do not reverse existing scars or treat symptoms.
Most symptoms of MS can be greatly relieved or ameliorated.
This usually involves a combination of appropriate medications and other treatment modalities such as rehabilitative therapies, equipment, lifestyle practices and alternative and complementary therapies where appropriate. Pacific Neuroscience Institute also offers speech pathology services for patients with multiple sclerosis.
Exercise for People with Multiple Sclerosis
For people with MS, exercise and physical activity can be variously challenging. However, being physically active is one of the most beneficial adaptations to a lifestyle with MS.
Additional MS Resources
1301 20th St #150
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Videos about Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Articles about Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
15 Early Warning Signs of Multiple Sclerosis All Women Need to Know
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can affect your entire body. Learn the signs, symptoms, and treatment options with Neurologist and MS Specialist Barbara Giesser, MD.
3 Things to Know About Multiple Sclerosis and COVID-19
For anyone with a chronic medical condition, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic can raise particular concerns. Here are some frequently asked questions from people with Multiple Sclerosis. 1. What’s the relationship between MS and COVID-19? Having Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in and of itself does not confer a greater…
6 Exercise Tips for Move More Month
Being active is a great way to maintain our physical and mental health, but did you know that exercise can also improve neurodegenerative diseases and promote overall brain health? Discover tips for incorporating physical activity into your daily routine with experts from Pacific Neuroscience Institute (PNI) for Move More Month in April.