The National Multiple Sclerosis Society explains MS as an immune-mediated disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks myelin in the body’s Central Nervous System (CNS) which is made up of the Brain, Spinal Cord and Optic Nerves.
Myelin is the fatty substance that acts as a protective coating which surrounds and insulates the nerve fibres in the body’s CNS.
In MS the body’s immune system whose purpose under normal circumstances is to protect the human body, starts targeting and damaging the myelin, the nerve fibres and even the specialised cells that produce myelin in our bodies. These damaged areas develop scarring, leading to scar tissue which is why this disease is called “Multiple Sclerosis” i.e. multiple areas of scarring.
When this happens, there are serious implications on the body’s normal CNS function, whose primary purpose is to transmit messages and combine information received from the entire body to coordinate activity across the whole human body. Hence, the reason why it is called the ‘Central’ Nervous System.
Damage or destruction of myelin or nerve fibres greatly impacts the messages travelling within the CNS nerve pathways. These messages can be slowed or even completely stopped which in turn can cause a wide variety of neurological symptoms that can differ in different in type and severity among people affected by MS. The most common symptoms include fatigue, blurred or double vision, poor coordination, numbness, tingling, imbalance, issues with concentrating and memory, pain and depression. In certain less common cases, MS can cause tremors, blindness and even paralysis.