Each year we tend to fall back on writing about the holidays. Today is Memorial Day; we may have written about the US military and honoring those we lost. Instead, we wanted to shift gears and discuss something personal: Multiple Sclerosis. MS affects 2.9 million people globally. Teona is public about her life with MS, and I have several people close to me with MS diagnoses. Tomorrow, May 30th, 2023, is World MS Day. Here’s what you should know.
What is Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a chronic neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. It is considered an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues.
In MS, the immune system targets the protective covering of nerve fibers called myelin, which helps transmit electrical impulses. The immune system attack leads to inflammation and myelin damage, causing communication disruptions between the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the body. Over time, the areas of damage, known as lesions or plaques, can form scar tissue.
The exact cause of MS is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Understanding the Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis can vary widely from person to person, depending on the location and extent of the damage within the central nervous system. Common symptoms may include fatigue, difficulty with coordination and balance, muscle weakness or spasms, numbness or tingling, vision problems, speech and swallowing difficulties, cognitive changes, and emotional disturbances.
No Two Experiences are the Same
When prepping for this post, Teona told me her most important takeaway is that every MS journey is different. There is no shoebox. Each person has an entirely different experience, symptoms, and reaction to treatments. A friend with MS also confided in me that often the disease goes misdiagnosed. She spent well over a year with terrible symptoms before a doctor determined she had MS. Once you have a diagnosis, you’re thrown into the treatment lottery and hope one of many treatments can control your symptoms.
MS Connections Campaign
The theme for World MS Day this year is Connections. Visit WorldMSDay.Org to learn more about the mission and what you can do. By writing this blog post, we’re helping to spread awareness about MS, but we can all do more. We’re encouraged to share on social media using the hashtags #MSConnections and #WorldMSDay and tag @WorldMSDay on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts. Be an advocate for change, and share your story on the World MS Day map here.
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