MS is not contagious or inherited, but scientists have found patterns to the disease that might help point to whom it might affect. Researchers say gender, genetics, age, geography and ethnic background have been identified as factors and will hopefully hold the key to discovering how the disease develops in one person over another, the NMSS says.
MS is often a difficult disease to diagnose because its symptoms can vary from person to person depending on what area of the brain or spinal cord it attacks. Many times, patients are referred to Dr. Eicher because they have several unexplained symptoms.
“A patient might have visual loss in one eye or change of color vision out of one eye if it is attacking the optic nerve,” she says. “Or you may have any symptom that has to do with what the brain does for you, which is nearly everything.”
The peak age of diagnosis for MS is when someone is in their 20s or 30s. The disease is diagnosed through a clinical exam of a patient and their history, but is ultimately confirmed when imaging of the brain reveals lesions, or areas of attack, and damage on the central nervous system. There are times when a person’s MS may be unexpectedly diagnosed when their central nervous system is being imaged for a totally different reason, Dr. Eicher says.
Recent research and the release of highly effective drugs are making MS one of the most exciting areas in the field of neurology. Patients are now able to maintain a quality of life that was unheard of in previous decades, Dr. Eicher says.
“There are people walking around with MS and you wouldn’t even know it,” she says. “Like the principal at your child’s school or the guy who talks to you and helps you with your account at the bank. There are people who have the disease, but its presence is not as obvious.”
The key, however, is early diagnosis and patient compliance. Dr. Eicher urges individuals to consult with their physician if they experience any unusual symptom pertaining to their nervous system that lasts for more than 24 hours at a time. This could include symptoms such as vision changes or numbness.
For more information on multiple sclerosis or to find a Premier Health Specialists physician near you, go online to www.premierhealthspecialists.org/neuro.