Multiple Sclerosis Explained: A Closer Look at the Disease, Diagnosis, and Treatments
National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Education and Awareness Month is observed every March. According to The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, we must raise awareness for an understanding of the scope of this disease and assist those with MS to feel confident as they make decisions about their health and treatment options.
At Carolina NeuroSurgery & Spine Associates (CNSA), we understand that MS can be an overwhelming and complex diagnosis. To join the conversation during national MS education and awareness month, we spoke to CNSA neurologist Dr. Ki S. Jung to learn more about the disease.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Explained
The term itself is very descriptive. "Multiple" means more than one, and "sclerosis" means scarring. When someone has MS, they have a possible problem with their body's immune system. To understand MS in the most basic way, think of MS as an issue where the person's immune system is overactive.
Our immune systems are designed to protect our bodies and fight off things that don't belong in our bodies, like infections with bacteria and viruses. However, in those with MS, their immune system is overactive and confused. Because it's overactive, it still wants to attack and fight something in our bodies, but the immune system is confused. The immune system will turn on itself and start attacking the nervous system, especially the brain and spinal cord.
With every attack, MS causes some neurological symptoms, which can eventually improve on its own to an extent, but leaves a scar on the brain or spinal cord where it attacked. The term "multiple sclerosis" came from the scars left as a result.
The problem is that each MS attack leaves a scar on the nervous system, in addition to causing some mild residual neurological deficits. Therefore, the more attacks a person with MS has over a lifetime, the more likely that person will have some physical/neurological deficit in the future.
Clinical history/symptoms, examination, and MRI of the brain and spine typically diagnose MS. MS is often confirmed by a lumbar puncture (i.e., "spinal tap") to test a sample of the cerebrospinal fluid. There are specific tests that are "markers" of MS that can show up in the cerebrospinal fluid.
There are many different treatment options for MS these days.
In years past, before we had all these new treatments, options were limited to treat for MS. This is still a current myth that newly diagnosed patients may have about MS. They automatically think it's a "death sentence" or something that will mean they are destined for a wheelchair in the future.
There is no cure for MS, but there are medications designed to calm down the overactive immune system in MS to bring it back to a "normal activity" so that it is less likely to cause MS attacks. Many exceptional medications exist now which can keep MS well-controlled. Like diabetes, you cannot cure it, but you can manage it with medications and control it reasonably.
There are people you probably know and work with who have MS. They can live and work as anyone else would, thanks to medications that effectively control their MS.
A Neurologist's Role in MS
Neurologists are experts in the nervous system and disorders of the nervous system. They can help diagnose and treat MS to give the person the best quality of life possible through treatments and other management options.
The key is to see the neurologist sooner than later. The sooner the MS diagnosis is made, the quicker to treatment and the better the long-term prognosis.
If you or a loved one are suffering from MS, or believe you may have MS, schedule an appointment with us today.
About our Neurology Services
Neurology involves the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders regarding the central and peripheral nervous systems, including strokes, headaches, numbness/tingling, and seizures. Board-certified and fellowship-trained neurologist Ki Jung, MD, provides neurology care at our Huntersville office. Dr. Jung has more than 18 years of experience helping patients with neurological disorders and has earned an outstanding reputation in the region.
Chelsey Sisko, PA-C, assists neurologist Ki Jung, MD, in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with neurological disorders. Chelsey has a special interest in strokes, stroke management, seizure disorders, tremors and movement disorders.
Our Neurology services are offered in our Huntersville office and include the evaluation and treatment of:
● Chronic daily headaches
● Hemifacial spasms
● Syncope or blackout spells
● Strokes and TIAs
● Restless legs syndrome
● Dizziness and vertigo
● Limb pain
● Pins/needles sensations
● Carpal tunnel syndrome
● Myopathies (muscle weakness/pain)
● Radiculopathies (pinched nerves)
● Movement disorders
● Tremors/Parkinson’s disease
● Memory disorders/Alzheimer’s disease
● Multiple Sclerosis
On-site diagnostic services at our Huntersville office:
● Electroencephalography (EEG) – Brainwave testing
● Electromyography (EMG) – Needle muscle testing
● Nerve Conductions Studies (NCS) – Nerve testing
All NCS and EMG studies are personally performed and interpreted by Dr. Jung and his clinical team. Dr. Jung is fellowship-trained in neuro-diagnostic testing and specifically board-certified in clinical neurophysiology.
Please call the Huntersville office at 704-831-4145 or fax a referral to 704-831-4143 to make an appointment or to submit a referral for any diagnostic testing. (A prior neurological consultation is not required to have an EEG, EMG/NCS.)
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New and current patients can call our offices to make an appointment or request an appointment online.