What is Multiple Sclerosis? | MyRGV.com

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By: Dr. R. Alejandro Cruz
MS Specialist at DHR Health Neuroscience Institute 

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the second most common cause of non-traumatic neurological disability in young adults. It is an autoimmune inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS), this means that it is a disease where the immune system starts attacking the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord. Multiple Sclerosis is classified as a neurodegenerative disease as it continues to progress affecting not only the white matter (also known as myelin) but also the gray matter (neurons and axons). 

According to the most recent prevalence published in 2019, nearly one million adults are living with MS in the United States.  The average risk of developing MS is determined to be 3.5 in 1,000 or less than half of 1%, however this risk increases to 3-4% for individuals with a first degree relative with MS. To develop MS a genetic predisposition is required, nevertheless, a trigger or a combination of factors is needed to detonate this autoimmune disease.  In January of this year, a study was published and among 10 million young adults on active military duty, 955 were diagnosed with MS during their period of service. The risk of MS increased 32-fold after infection with Epstein Bar Virus (EBV) but did not increase after infection with other viruses. 

Low levels of vitamin D, cigarette smoking, and certain infections such as mononucleosis (Epstein Barr’s virus) are known factors that can increase the risk of having MS. On the other hand, good levels of vitamin D and parasitic infections have been linked to a lower risk of developing MS. Multiple sclerosis is more common in women than in men. It is thought that MS is more prevalent among Caucasians and less in Asian populations. Previously it was thought that Latino and African American populations had a lower prevalence of this disease, however, more recent studies have shown that this may no longer be the case. 

Multiple Sclerosis can present in different forms, the most common form of MS is relapsing remitting disease however there is also a degree of progression derivate from the neurodegenerative nature of this chronic illness. The symptoms of MS vary widely; depending on which area of the central nervous system is affected.  MS can present as fatigue, cognitive difficulties, visual symptoms, hearing changes, dizziness, stroke-like symptoms, tremors, bladder symptoms, muscle weakness, sensory changes, walking or coordination problems, and mental health disorders just to name a few. 

As of now, there is not a cure for MS, however, there are now more than 20 FDA-approved disease-modifying therapies (DMT) to fight MS. Even though DMTs do not represent a cure, the effectiveness of these medications can in many cases achieve what we call the state of “NEDA” or Not Evidence of Disease Activity (NEDA). 

DHR Multiple Sclerosis Center has been recognized by the National MS society as a partner in MS care, as such we offer a team of medical professionals available to work as a team to provide comprehensive MS care including neurology, neuropsychology, urology, rehabilitation services, all available disease-modifying therapies for MS, and the possibility to participate in MS research clinical trials. 

If you would like more information on MS, please speak to your physician or call the DHR Health Neuroscience Institute at (956) 362-8500, Ext. 1.  Our experts are available to answer any questions you may have and discuss the steps you can take to help ease your symptoms. 

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